News / USA

US Bookstore Survives Changes in Publishing Industry

Benjamin Bass, founder, the Strand Book Store
Benjamin Bass, founder, the Strand Book Store
Behnam Nateghi

Books and bookstores, have been having a hard time in the United States in the last few years.  Not long ago, large discount booksellers drove many small, independent book stores out of business.  Now,  those superstores are taking a hit from on-line and digital book sellers. Borders --  the country’s number two book chain -- recently declared bankruptcy and Amazon says it is now selling more e-books than printed ones. But in New York City, there’s a family-owned, independent book store that is still going strong.

Family-owned business

The Strand Book store, in New York's East Village, is surrounded by huge buildings belonging to New York University. It is more than 84 years old and is among the oldest cultural institutions in New York. It's affectionately known for the row of tables outside, filled with one-dollar books.

Nancy Bass Wyden, Strand's manager, is the granddaughter of the store’s founder, Benjamin Bass.  

Nancy and her father, Fred Bass, say the store owes at least part of its success to its location in New York City.  

“We are very fortunate to be in New York City.  It's the cultural center of the world. We have good access to these great libraries in used form," she notes.  "We have authors coming in here all the time. We just have this kind of access that a big chain store can't have in Des Moines, Iowa.”


Nancy is married to U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. She began working at the store as a student.  Her dad Fred, who is now 86, has worked here since he was 13.

Staying relevant

Although the Borders book chain has declared bankruptcy and announced plans to close its remaining stores, Fred Bass says there’s a reason Strand is still in business.

"We've got the books. We've got the books at the right price. We keep getting fresh books in. Our turnover is enormous. We buy private collections. We get material that no other bookstore carries. We've got a  building here with 5 floors of books. 10,500 square feet [975 square meters] jammed with books. And there's a constant stream of books coming in,” he says.

Neil Winokur is the Strand’s book buyer.

"All day long, people… there’s a line usually all day long, people waiting to sell us books,  and you go through the books and you make them an offer," he stated. 

In addition to used books, the Strand has a rare book division that is the envy of major libraries.

"If you want a copy of "Huckleberry Finn," we could have 15 to 20 different kinds of varieties, including a signed Mark Twain," Wyden explained.

“Most of them are really serious collectors coming up here.  We carry a lot of collectables and the price range here runs from about $15  to $45,000 --  for a copy of "Ulysses,"  illustrated by Matisse and signed by Matisse, but also signed by James Joyce,” Bass added.

Unique customer service

The Strand also helps people build their own book collections.  Miguel Soto is the Strand’s personal library advisor.

“You tell us what subjects you like, what artists you like.  Do you want art books, do you want trade size, do you want biographies, do you want travel books? You tell us what you need and we'll go around the store," explains Soto. "[We will] check the inventory and pull it for you.”

Some booksellers have seen their sales fall with the growth in electronic books.  E-book sales have gone up ten times since 2008, according to an industry report.

"We've not gone the ebooks route at all. We have a lot of customers who really do not like ebooks," Wyden said. "The customers we get are very intllectual. It's not just the older professor-type peope coming in here," Bass adds. "It's younger people coming in here asking for Heidegger and Wittgenstein. Reading Aristotle and the good literary works and things like that."

Despite the brutal market for booksellers, book sales have been rising.  An industry survey shows that in 2010, almost $28 billion worth of books were sold in the U.S. -- a 5.6 percent increase in two years.

You May Like

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs