Poetry News

A Perfect Storm: Save St. Mark's Bookshop!

By Harriet Staff


Save St. Mark's! Is this a nightmare?! Pretty much. The blogger from Vanishing New York recently saw this poster up in the window at New York's St. Mark's Bookshop, and an article in The Villager is confirming concern that the store--beloved by poets, writers, scholars, and artists--is not doing well:

The current economic downturn coupled with steep overhead costs and dwindling sales finally forced the management of St. Mark’s Bookshop, on Third Ave. near E. Ninth St., to lay off all of the shop’s part-time staff and to reduce the hours of full-timers. The downsizing occurred last October, but the business continues to struggle because of the ongoing economic stresses.

David Russo, a manager at the bookstore, said St. Mark’s is enduring a “perfect storm.”

“We were in a precarious position and when you add what happened with the economy in general — there you go,” he said. “We’re particularly vulnerable to that because of the price of our real estate. It’s people turning to e-readers and that sort of thing.”

According to Russo, St. Mark’s is in no danger of shuttering in the short term, but the store’s situation is still dire.

“I wouldn’t say it’s merely a little tight, but I wouldn’t say we’re planning on closing the store,” he said. “That’s not the plan right now, but that is a possibility, I would have to say.”

Staff at St. Mark’s have said that one of the main reasons they are struggling to eek out a profit is because larger e-book sellers have changed consumer habits and expectations.

According to the American Booksellers Association, in-store book sales have only grown by 0.2 percent since last year, but comparable data shows that e-books are dramatically outpacing their traditional counterparts. In April, the American Association of Publishers reported that e-books experienced a roughly 200 percent increase since 2010.

According to Russo, now customers will only buy books if they are in stock. He added that he is able to order and stock a book as quickly as 24 hours, but for many customers that is too long a time. . . .

Other factors like high rent and issues with publishers are contributing to the tough situation for St. Mark’s.

The bookstore occupies valuable real estate and staff members said the landlords are unwilling to lower the rent for the space.

“Mostly, when we deal with them, we’re told that they could get a lot more for the space,” Russo said.

It's terrifying news for one of the best bookstores on the planet. We encourage you to buy your books in brick and mortar, and we'll try to do the same. Read the full article here.

Originally Published: June 24th, 2011