With three bookstores opening in Brooklyn in as many weeks, the area is cementing its reputation as the book center of New York. The latest, Singularity&Co., the brainchild of Ceci James; her significant other, Ash Kalb; and Jamil V. Moen, officially opened on August 9 on the edge of DUMBO near Vinegar Hill. Hearkening back to bookstores of old, publishing is an integral part of Singularity&Co. So much so that James says the two projects—rescuing older sci fi books by republishing them and opening a sci-fi bookstore—were “parallel. We wanted to do the publishing project, but to do it we were buying lots of people’s libraries and looking for forgotten paperbacks. We were going for the books nobody knew, and we had thousands of books.” This became the inventory for the bookstore.
To get the publishing venture off the ground, in March the trio turned to Kickstarter for $15,000. Their goal was to save out-of-print, out-of-circulation vintage sci fi books from the 1970s and earlier by republishing them digitally. Instead, they got pledges of more than triple that, or $52,276, which gave their book-a-month e-book publishing program an added boost. To date they’ve published two books: Robert Cromie’s Victorian-era adventure, A Plunge into Space, came out at the end of June, Jack Bechdolt’s The Torch in July.
“We try to do things that are obscure and good or interesting in some way,” says James, explaining the criteria. Singularity&Co. also asks people to suggest what they’d like to see back in print and gets legal help—Kalb is an attorney—tracking down the author and/or copyright holder. Currently the books that Singularity&Co. publishes are available only on a yearly or lifetime subscription basis. James says that they may add a monthly option.
The 40 X 40 bookstore sells books to walk-in customers, and soon to online ones, the more traditional way, one by one. Although James says that she and Kalb aren’t interested in making money, the store, which also provides a work space for them, does need to more than break even so that they can pay staff. One pleasant surprise, which they didn’t know when they were in the planning stages, says James, is that theirs is the only sci fi-dedicated bookstore in New York.
The other two Brooklyn bookstores also have their own distinct personalities. Molasses Books, which opened late last month, and is the first bookstore in Bushwick, focuses on a more general mix of used titles. Located in a former barbershop, the store features a coffee bar and hopes to add a liquor license for wine and beer in the fall. Customers can trade books for credit, which they can then put toward lattes or more books.
And a third used bookstore, Human Relations, is slated to open in Bushwick on Saturday. A spin off from the people behind Williamsburg’s used bookstore Book Thug Nation, the store will specialize in: literature, philosophy, film, foreign language, noir, history, art, science, science Fiction, food, and drama.