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What a difference a decade makes.

In the time since the ABA was held in New York City in 1991, Manhattan's bookstore landscape has changed dramatically. After all, it was in the years immediately following that convention and trade show that the chain superstore wave swept across the country, followed by the rise of online bookselling. While used and specialty shops in Gotham have tended to hold their own, the biggest difference is in general bookstores. No big surprises here: there are more chain stores and fewer independents.

Among the stores that disappeared over the last 11 years: Books & Co., Burlington Books, Canterbury Bookshop, Coliseum Books, A Different Light, Endicott's Books, Foul Play, Judith's Room, Jaap Rietman Art Books, Spring Street Books, Eeyore's, Shakespeare & Co.'s original Upper West Side store, Tower Books, University Press Books/New York and the Traveller's Bookstore.

Chains closed, too: Rizzoli, which at one point began to expand with ambitions of becoming a high-end art-oriented chain, in the last year has closed most of its stores across the country, including one in the Winter Garden next to the World Trade Center and another in SoHo. Its flagship store, on 57th Street in Midtown, remains.

Barnes & Noble, whose headquarters and roots are in New York, opened a number of superstores in the city, most notably on Sixth Avenue in Chelsea, on Union Square, on Broadway on the Upper West Side, on 86th Street on the Upper East Side and near Lincoln Center. Unlike many of the chain's suburban superstores, the Union Square and Chelsea stores are in historical buildings and make creative, respectful use of the space. The Union Square location has astounding views of the park and is the main site for B&N's biggest readings and other events in the city. The Lincoln Center area store is one of the company's largest, built when average superstore size hit its height.

B&N's original store has moved several times on lower Fifth Avenue; its current location, at Fifth Avenue and 18th Street (wave to B&N chairman Len Riggio in the building across the avenue), is a delightful, unsuperstore-like mix of trade, text and professional titles. The once-popular sale annex, also across the avenue, has gone the way of discounts on all superstore titles.

During the past decade, Borders entered the New York market (surprise, surprise: B&N later opened a branch in Ann Arbor), with stores on Park Avenue at 57th Street; in Kips Bay, on Second Avenue between 31st and 32nd Sts.; and one of its most successful globally, in the World Trade Center—which, of course, was a casualty of the attacks of September 11. (The company continues to hope to reopen in that area in part because of demand from residents.)

The chains' expansion of superstores led to the demise of some stores run by other parts of the chains. For example, the Brentano's (a part of Borders's Waldenbooks division) in the old Scribner Bookstore site on Fifth Avenue, is closed. Likewise, B&N closed many Doubleday and B. Dalton stores in the city, including the high-visibility stores on Fifth Avenue.

New or Moved Indies

The Drama Book Shop recently found a new home, at 250 W. 40th St. (between 7th and 8th Aves.; 212-946-5411), where it was able to triple its space to 5,400 square feet. While some bookstores have coffee shops, this New York institution since 1923 has a theater space on the store's lower level. The Arthur Seelen Theatre is the home of the store's own theater company, Back House Productions, and is also a space for readings, events, and rental. The play's the thing at Drama Book Shop, or at least the play script—the store carries one of the largest selections of play scripts in the country. "I think of our inventory as offering the tools of the trade," said owner Rozanne Seelen. The store's 40,000 titles also include books on acting, the history of theater, design and criticism. Film books, biographies, audiobooks and children's theater titles round out the categories.

Opened in 1997 near the Columbia University campus, Labyrinth Books (536 W. 112th St.; 212-865-1588) is modeled on Chicago's Seminary Cooperative Bookstore. With some 125,000 titles, it is probably the largest bookstore in the city focusing on scholarly and academic titles, many of which are discounted. The founders were Chris Doblin and Cliff Simms, former partners at Barnard Book Forum who opened Great Jones Books, a scholarly and academic book distributor in nearby Yonkers, N.Y.

St. Mark's Bookshop (31 Third Ave.; 212-260-7853) is the quintessential East Village gathering place for intellectuals, artists, writers and poseurs alike. The store is a microcosm of modern-day yuppified Greenwich Village, which still houses the slackers and wannabes waiting for their big break alongside the well-to-do living in their co-op lofts. New art-industrial, metal and wire fixtures display well-organized collections of university press titles, including much social and literary criticism, design and art books, while at the same time, worn wooden shelves in the back bulge with one of the most eclectic selections of poetry and literature on the East Coast. Owner and buyer Bob Content is more than happy to chat about his latest fave and is sure to come up with an offbeat recommendation or two. After the destruction of the World Trade Center Borders location, St. Mark's is one of few remaining general bookstores in lower Manhattan. Some years ago, it moved from its former home on St. Mark's Place. —Edward Nawotka

Shakespeare & Co. garnered a lot of press when it closed its 15-year-old Upper West Side location in 1996, but the store still has four healthy branches in Manhattan (and two in Brooklyn). The general-interest bookstores has a hip following thanks to the pop culture—heavy displays and cutting-edge imports and small press titles. The two largest branch stores are on the Upper East Side (939 Lexington Ave. between 68th and 69th Sts.; 212-570-0369), which has 6,000 square feet and 64,000 titles; and the Gramercy Park area (716 Broadway at Washington Place; 212-529-1330), which is 4,000 square feet and carries 50,000 titles. The remaining Manhattan locations are at 137 E. 23rd St. (at Lexington, 212-220-5198) and at One Whitehall (near South Ferry; 212-742-7025).

Lenox Hill Bookstore (1018 Lexington Ave., between 72nd and 73rd Sts.; 212-472-7170) was founded in 1995 by Lenny Golay and Raymond Sherman, owners of the delightful Corner Bookstore (1313 Madison Ave.; 212-831-3554). It was purchased late last year by Jeannette Watson, former owner and proprietor of the famous Books & Co. This is a small, general bookstore with a literary slant. The store recently installed a first edition and rare book section that features a first edition of Truman Capote's In Cold Blood and a slipcased edition of the Goncourt brothers' journal, with fascinating stories of Turgenev, Flaubert and Zola. The store is known for courting authors for signings. Over the last couple months Lenox Hill has hosted Jacques Pepin, Jonathan Franzen, Edmund Morris, Margaret Atwood, Susan Minot, Sebastian Faulks, Walter Cronkite, Mario Vargas Llosa and Jill Ker Conway. Watson is still publishing books under her Books & Co imprint, including the forthcoming A Girl from Zanzibar, a new novel by two-time Booker Prize nominee Roger King.

Twelfth Street Books (11 E. 12 St.; 212-645-4340) opened a little over three years ago in its gleamingly bright and clean location (a one-time upholstery store). It's hard to believe that this store used to be Chelsea Books on 17th Street, which was a favorite used bookstore for allergy-free bibliophiles who loved to rummage through dusty stacks of books to seek out bargains. The 15,000 books have been dusted at the new location, but owner Steve Crowley is still offering the same eclectic selection of history, politics, psychology and various genres of fiction.

Posman Books is the trade division of Posman Collegiate Bookstore Association, which has some 20 textbook stores on East Coast campuses, primarily in New York. Eugene Posman began the chain 34 years ago, after many years of working at Barnes & Noble. His wife, Maxene Posman, is president.

In the last decade, the company has opened several trade stores in Manhattan. Two of them, on University Place near New York University, and Posman Books at New School University on lower Fifth Avenue, have closed.

The remaining trade store is Posman Books at Grand Central, a 5,200-sq.-ft. bookstore with 30,000—35,000 titles; it opened three years ago in space that was part of a major renovation of the 1913 landmark, which included the addition of Banana Republic, Godiva Chocolatier and Starbucks. Some 500,000 people per day walk through Grand Central Terminal on 42nd St. between Vanderbilt and Lexington; the major customers for the well-trafficked store are commuters and tourists.

Notable college and university bookstores in Manhattan include the New York University Book Centers, whose main store is at 18 Washington Place (212-998-4678), a strong institutional store; and the Columbia University Bookstore (Broadway and 115th St.; 212-854-4131), leased by Barnes & Noble College.

Around Town

Kitchen Arts and Letters (1435 Lexington Ave.; 212-876-5550) has been an Upper East Side institution for 19 years. Owner Nach Waxman and manager Matt Sartwell are usually on the floor helping customers sort through the 12,000 new and out-of-print titles (the store also carries an "untold number" of used books). Waxman says the inventory is made up of "everything relating to food and wine, including cookbooks but also culinary history, collecting, the arts, social issues and history." It also does free book searches with no obligation. The staff never gives up on a search. The longest search ever conducted took more than 10 years. "At that point, it's harder to find the person rather than the book," notes Waxman. Foodies will eat this place up!

The Madison Avenue Bookshop (833 Madison Ave., between 69th and 70th Sts.; 212-535-6130) opened in 1973 and although the store has been refined somewhat over the years, it has essentially remained an old-fashioned carriage trade store. The two-level, 1,700-sq.-ft. store has its own house charge accounts, billing regular customers monthly for purchases. The "resident pooch," Paley (named for his coloring, not after Grace or Bill), goes home every night with owner Perry Haberman, who bought the bookstore two years ago, after working there for 20 years. With roughly 30,000 titles, the general-interest bookstore specializes in nonfiction and literature equally, with strong sales in art and design.

The 19-year-old Chartwell Booksellers (55 E. 52nd St., inside the Park Avenue Plaza Building between Madison and Park Aves.; 212-308-0643) may be small in size (a little less than 700 square feet), but it has a worldwide reputation as one of the foremost collectors of Winston Churchill memorabilia. At the store's Web site (, you can price autographed documents, assorted ephemera and books by and about the former Prime Minister. Non-Churchillians can still have fun browsing the shelves of this general-interest bookstore, as owner Barry Singer also maintains strong nonfiction and literature sections.

The sign out in front of the Gotham Book Mart (41 W. 47th St.; 212-719-4448) reads "Wise Men Fish Here," and they've been doing so since 1920. The current address, in the Diamond District, has been the store's home for the last 56 years, but it has been on the market for the last year. Owner Andreas Brown believes the store, with its 400,000 volumes, has outgrown the five-story building and is hoping to relocate when someone meets his $7.9 million asking price for the building. But for the time being, it's still there. A general used and new bookstore, the Gotham is nirvana for Edward Gorey fans. You'll find virtually everything he ever wrote, drew or made, and many signed first editions.

Take this opportunity to see one of the last two remaining Rizzoli Bookstores in the U.S. (the other is in San Francisco). One of the most beautiful stores on the one of the most prestigious shopping streets in the city (31 W. 57th Street), Rizzoli caters to its well-heeled clientele and, like its namesake, Rizzoli Publishers, it specializes in art and design titles, with an emphasis on gorgeous, large-format, high-priced coffee-table volumes. The store also offers a full array of foreign magazines, newspapers and CDs, as well as smattering of foreign-language books. It carries a modest but interesting selection of the latest general titles. Coliseum Books is gone, but Rizzoli remains a unique respite for book lovers from the high-priced hustle and bustle of 57th Street, which hosts numerous other attractions for the big spender, including the Russian Tea Room, Bergdorf Goodman, Prada and Tiffany & Co.—Edward Nawotka

Venerable Hacker Art Books (45 W. 57th St.; 212-688-7600) remains one of the best art bookstores in the city. See it before or after Rizzoli and enjoy the difference.

Despite its name, McGraw-Hill Bookstore (1221 Sixth Ave.; 212-512-4100) proudly carries computer, business, professional and technical titles "from all publishers." Check out the great use of an odd space.

The Complete Traveller (199 Madison Ave.; 212-685-9007) has two connected shops selling both antiquarian and new travel guides and travel-related titles.

Other Press, an independent publisher specializing in psychoanalysis and related topics, also operates Other Books, at 224 W. 20th Street (212-414-0747). The store offers more than 5,000 titles on psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and gender and cultural studies from all major publishers.—Calvin Reid.

With its "eight miles of books," the Strand Bookstore on Broadway and 12th Street (212-473-1452), at the heart of the old Booksellers Row, continues to be the unofficial cash machine of the book industry. Except for the frequently revolving stock, this shop, which specializes in used, remaindered, reviewered and otherwise sold titles, is familiar to anyone who set foot in it 30 years ago.

The Alabaster Bookshop (122 Fourth Ave. between 12th and 13th Sts.; 212-982-3550) is located literally in the shadow of the Strand, but this used book store holds its own, squeezing a lot of stock into a small space. The "buck-a-book" bargains on the carts outside the store's windowed front only hint at the number of categories to be found inside.

Three Lives & Co., at W. 10th St. and Waverly Place in the West Village (212-741-2069), has an elegant Parisian feel and highly loyal clientele for its literature, art, mystery, gay, lesbian and feminist and gardening and cooking titles.

The Biography Bookshop (Bleecker and 11th St.; 212-807-8655), in a quiet corner of the West Village, is a neighborhood favorite, featuring literary biographies, memoirs and more in a bright space.

Housing Works Used Books and Café (126 Crosby St.; 334-3324) in SoHo, donates 100% of the profits to Housing Works, a nonprofit organization that provides housing, health care, job training, advocacy and many other services to homeless New Yorkers living with HIV and AIDS. No wonder the bookstore has no problem attracting donations from the publishing world toward its inventory of 45,000 books. You can find everything from rare books to inexpensive advance copies, with your purchases going to a good cause. With 20-foot ceilings, a mahogany-paneled interior, spiral staircases and a knowledgeable staff, Housing Works also boasts a café with stellar sandwiches, soups, desserts and ample seating.

Museum Bookstores

All the major museums and libraries in Manhattan have extensive bookstores, although much of the material for sale should be categorized as upscale sidelines. (The Museum of Modern Art's bookstore is closed while the museum undergoes major renovations.)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bookstore is a veritable art-world department store, featuring books, postcards, prints, posters, jewelry and reproductions. It's such a popular profit center that there are 25 smaller branches across the country, and in Mexico, Europe and Asia. Local branches are at the Cloisters, the Museum's medieval uptown branch; Macy's flagship store in Herald Square; Rockefeller Center; SoHo; and LaGuardia Airport. The flagship of the fleet is, of course, at the Met, on Fifth Ave. and 82nd St.

The Whitney Museum of American Art has closed its Store Next Door, but the Whitney Museum Store offers a wide range of books, CDs, videos, jewelry, clothing and other gifts. (By the way, the famous Whitney Biennial will be open during BEA.)

The Guggenheim Museum Store is one of the few international museums with a branch in Las Vegas. It's in a space that's been renovated since the 1991 ABA.

Similar bookstores are at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum (specializing in titles on design), the American Museum of Natural History (lots of nature projects and stuffed animals for children), as well as the New York Public Library, the Morgan Library, the Asia Society and the New-York Historical Society.

Following the migration of many art galleries to Chelsea, Dia Center of the Arts, formerly located in SoHo, is now at 548 W. 22nd St. (212-989-5566), and its delightful bookstore, which last month opened a Web store at, has 2,500 square feet of space and offers titles from Dia's publication program, monographs and exhibition catalogues.


If you love a mystery, there's a new mystery bookstore on the (crime) scene since the last convention in New York. Partners & Crime (44 Greenwich Ave. between Sixth and Seventh Aves.; 212-243-0440) opened in its subterranean location in 1994. With 8,000 titles (a mix of current titles with collectible first editions and used paperbacks), the 1,000-sq.-ft. store still has space for a working fireplace, wooden display units and cozy furniture. Last year, more than 150 authors held signings or appearances here, so this is a great place to find inexpensive autographed books by your favorite authors. The store's lending library offers customers a great way to read new hardcovers at below-paperback prices. Its out-of-print shelves stock a broad selection of hard-to-find vintage titles, and the store regularly imports British titles that haven't yet found their way to U.S. editions.

If you haven't been to New York since the last convention, you'll find that one of the country's oldest mystery bookstores, Murder Ink (2486 Broadway, between 92nd and 93rd Sts.; 212-362-8905) has moved. Established in 1972, the Upper West Side bookstore claims to carry every mystery in print, as well as a vast selection of out-of-print paperbacks, rare books and signed first editions. Stop in and say hi to Gus, the store's resident mystery hound.

Always a favorite with lovers of mayhem is Otto Penzler's The Mysterious Bookshop (129 W. 59th St.; 212-765-0900). The 23-year-old, two-story location stocks paperbacks on the ground floor and a spiral staircase leading to the hardcovers on the second level. Among the 15,000 titles, you'll find lots of old and rare volumes.

Gay and Lesbian Bookstores

One year ago, the lights went out on the Manhattan branch of A Different Light Bookstore, but the city is still represented by three other gay and lesbian bookstores.

The newest kid on the block is Bluestockings Women's Bookstore (172 Allen St.; 212-777-6028), an independent women's bookstore and café in New York City's Lower East Side that opened in 1999. Kathryn Welsh, the 26-year-old owner, sees the volunteer-run new and used bookstore as a community and activism center. "We have adopted a collective structure," she said. "And we strive to be an organizing site in the struggle for social, economic and environmental justice." The 1,000-sq.-ft. store houses 5,000 titles by, for and about women. The books shares the space with a café and a performance area for readings, meetings and workshops.

Creative Visions (548 Hudson St., between Perry and Charles Sts.; 212-645-7573) opened on Gay Pride Day 1985 as Gay Treasures, an erotic book, video and greeting card store. In 1993, when its next-door-neighbor, A Different Light Bookstore, moved from Greenwich Village to a larger space in Chelsea, Creative Visions moved into the vacated 800-sq.-ft. location and has increased its book inventory over the years. It continues to thrive in the heart of the Village, with more than 6,000 titles in its inventory. The store also hosts the ever-growing Gay and Lesbian Video Rental Club, one of the nation's largest, with more than 7,000 video and DVD titles ranging in subject from entertainment to educational, romantic to erotic. In a holdover from its Gay Treasures days, Creative Visions still has an extensive collection of vintage gay erotica. Collectors can search for rare and out-of-print classic magazines, books and videos as well as thousands of photos.

The Oscar Wilde Memorial Bookshop (15 Christopher St., between Sixth and Seventh Aves.; 212-255-8097)—generally acknowledged as the world's first gay and lesbian bookstore—opened in 1967 (two years before the Stonewall Riots, the dawn of the gay rights movement). The snug, 600-sq.-ft. bookstore is packed with more than 2,000 titles, as well as CDs, videos, DVDs and magazines. The back room contains used and rare books, including first editions of Truman Capote's Other Voices, Other Rooms ($450), Eudora Welty's The Wide Net ($300) and an autographed copy of Gore Vidal's Williwaw ($750). Although it's a small store, owner Kim Brinster's command of space and keen eye for new talent keeps the rotating inventory filled with a mix of new and popular titles and tantalizing collectibles.