We've all heard the sad tales about the decline in independent bookstores in New York, including a study summarized in the now defunct New York Sun about how NY State ranked I believe 50th in per capita bookstores per thousand population, a figure attributable not to the growth of chain stores or the net(since that would apply in all 50 states) but primarily to the huge increases in real estate and rental prices in the place of greatest population density-our own beloved Manahatta-
In Andre's Schiffrin's brilliant book, The Business of Books, published 8 years ago he details in a publishing industry chart from the mid-nineties the explosive (implosive?) decline in big city bookselling before then.
With the closing in the last couple of years of legendary stores like Coliseum(of west 57th and 42 nd st fame) and the immortal Gotham Book Mart, there are a mere handful of great independents left. Compare this to London, where I was over the winter holidays -There are well over a hundred independent shops and many terrific ones, even with high rentals, but many are far from the center. Will there more of an upsurge in the boroughs- There are a few good shops in Brooklyn, almost nil in Queens.
The most interesting restaurants (ethnically at least) are now in those boroughs. Will bookshops be able to migrate successfully- There's always hope in a city which remarkably regenerates itself through every crisis.
But if there's any money left over from the economic stimulus, it would be a good idea to sponsor public trusts for independent bookselling-It's that kind of knowledge transmission- even with the ubiquitous but never sufficient Kindle, that helps keep the ideals of civilization more fully alive.