Marwil Books, which was founded in 1948 and has been housed in a 3,000-squre-foot retail space across the street from Detroit’s Wayne State University since the 1970s, is closing. The store, which was founded by Milton and Lenore Marwil and sold to Lily Kramer in 1983, is Detroit’s oldest independent bookstore – and one of the few located inside Detroit’s city limits. It’s also regarded as an institution by generations of Wayne State students.
About 50% of Marwil’s inventory is textbooks, and 50% of it is trade fiction and nonfiction, as well as art books, professional and technical books, and magazines. According to Brian Kramer, the store’s current owner, it was a “perfect storm” of developments that caused him to decide to close his store at the end of the semester in December. Not only did he blame competition from Amazon, but he said that the continuing rise in the cost of textbooks also contributed to the store’s demise.
“Textbooks were costing $100, then more than $200,” he noted, “They’re way too expensive. It’s not a market in which one can be successful anymore.” Kramer explained that students were no longer buying textbooks from Marwil, but instead were buying them online, “because everyone thinks books should be cheap or free.” Kramer said that “it all came together” during last year’s rush in the beginning of the school year; he and his employees expected the usual crowd of students, “and hardly anyone showed up. It didn’t feel like a rush at all.”
Kramer, 55, says he doesn’t know what he will do after closing the store. Of his eight employees, three are students and “a couple” are ready for retirement. The rest are, like Kramer, looking for other employment.