Friday, April 13, 2012

Cash mob for St. Mark's Bookshop Sunday afternoon


Citing an article in Publisher's Weekly, Jeremiah Moss reports that the St. Mark's Bookshop is struggling financially again.

Per Publisher's Weekly:

"We’re hanging in there, barely," says co-owner Bob Contant. "It’s a difficult April. Traffic is down. Without an increase, we can’t rebuild our inventory. We’re 20% short of where we need to be."

Last fall, more than 44,000 people signed a petition to help save the bookstore and to lobby Cooper Union to reduce its rent for 2012.

Jeremiah is organizing a cash mob for Sunday afternoon:

#cashmob St. Mark's Bookshop, Sunday April 15, at 1:00 pm. Spend $15 on a book. Spend your tax refund! Then go drink at The International on First Avenue between Seventh Street and St. Mark's Place. Please re-tweet...spread the word.

While all this might be fine in the short-term, Jeremiah notes that "in this iZombie culture, what St. Mark's Bookshop needs most is a powerful new business plan — something that will sustain them in the long run, something that will keep attracting book buyers, day after day."

Meanwhile, the Bookshop has recently joined the Twitterverse — @stmarksbookshop

36 comments:

nygrump said...

It is very sad to say but this the result of emptying the neighborhood of humans and flooding it with transient NYU students. NYU is an nonintellectual environment.

Anonymous said...

I think you should attend an institute of higher learning yourself, as what you just said is dumb and lacks logical reasoning skills.

Anonymous said...

Well and good. All well and good. In this case, I hesitate to help someone who can't seem to help themselves. Also, I'd encourage people to ALSO frequent other bookstores in the neighborhood, including Mast on Avenue A and East Village Books on St. Mark's Place.

Anonymous said...

Well, the issue here has nothing to do with NYU students. Bookstores across the country are struggling financially, not just here in the EV. People still read books, it's just that an increasing percentage of readers have stopped reading books printed on old, dead trees. We live in a digital world. It's a fact of life. If this business wants to survive, it needs to adapt.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way, you can disagree with NYU's expansion plans all you want, but to say it's a "nonintellectual" environment is absolutely inaccurate.

Marty Wombacher said...

I just followed them on Twitter and look forward to going there on Sunday!

abrod said...

Don't forget to schedule the cash mob for July, when the store is struggling again.
And for Next November.
And April 2013.

We're all part of this community year-round (right?), and we only buy books from St Mark's when it's in trouble and someone sets up a cash mob - like we did in November. Forget the viability of a bookstore's business model; what does this say about us? Do we, as a community, truly care about this bookstore?

Anonymous said...

it's always funny when an anon argues with another anon. could they in fact be the same schizophrenic individual taking opposite sides? kinda like playing a lonely game of chess with yourself.

Anonymous said...

In other news, Billy Bob's typewriter store on 8th and 12th is holding its annual going out of business sale.

LIBERATION said...

I'll be there. Glad to help out.

Lisa said...

No offense to Saint Marks Books, but it seems perverse to organize a “cash mob” to temporarily support this --or any-- failing business. The obvious reason why businesses fail is because they’re not offering a service that enough people want to pay for. Maybe demand’s changed, maybe their competition’s outperforming them.

I recognize that most people are hopelessly sentimental when it comes to books in general and brick & mortar bookstores in particular; but no business can conceivably thrive if customers are induced to buy through pity rather than self-interest.

You wouldn’t mourn the demise of a restaurant that doesn’t attract a sufficient customer following, why is the situation any more tragic because the business sells books rather than food? How is this any less wrongheaded than organizing a “cash mob” to support a restaurant where few people would choose to eat, given the freedom to choose?

Janos said...

3rd anon- got a chuckle out of that one.
I'll definitely be there Sunday, but the economics of running a local bookstore must be so tough. I went to East Village books the other day, and the prices were startlingly high. The competition is not just iBooks and Amazon, but dudes on the sidewalk, the $2 section at the Strand, etc.

Shawn Chittle said...

Liberation?
Trippin' With Marty?
Jeremiah Moss?

I'll be there! I already spend a good $50 a month at St. Marks, I'll be happy to spend more!

blue glass said...

the problem is the loss of long-term, multi-generational stores to the increasingly absurd rent increases demanded by landlords,
and some of these landlords had their buildings saved by the on time rent paid by these very same stores.
the reason the type of business is highlighted is that most of the new establishments are bars and chain stores.
these do not a neighborhood make.

Caleo said...

I love St. Mark's bookshop, but if they don't have the will or desire to move to a more affordable location in the EV, then no amount of cashmobbing will save them.
The trend towards more folks buying online or digital is only going to get worse.

Anonymous said...

Its ridiculous to claim that if a business is struggling it is not serving its customers well. Profit is a meaningless criteria by which to assess the value of a business to a community. Some businesses are just never big money-makers, that's all. But they're the ones that mean the most.

LIBERATION said...

@shawn definitely!

Uncle Waltie said...

I always used to go to St. Marks bookstore to look at their magazines.There used to be so many of them, that I had to edit which one I could afford to buy. Not once did any employee or owner interfere with my browsing. I'm in!!

Anonymous said...

Happy to see jeremiah acknowledge the fact that no amount of cash mob will save them, just like Kate's or anywhere else in the ev that can't adapt their business model to survive.

Lisa said...

"Its ridiculous to claim that if a business is struggling it is not serving its customers well."

I didn't suggest that Saint Marks Books "isn't serving its customers well". What I said is that NOT ENOUGH CUSTOMERS are interested in buying their particular service.

The statement is arguable only if you intentionally misquote it.

Lisa said...

"Profit is a meaningless criteria by which to assess the value of a business to a community."

Actually profit is a pretty accurate criteria for assessing how much "the community" values a business.

You're just playing games by using the word "community", because you think it carries weight. While Saint Mark's Books' customers may be a subset of "the community", it's obviously not a large enough subset of "the community" to pay the bills and salaries of Saint Marks Books.

Reality's a bitch, but she must be obeyed.

Little Earthquake said...

Self-interest is the primary motivator in most actions, even cash mobs. People find this uncomfortable to hear, as many truths are harder to digest than self-delusion.

I use the library for books. One could argue that that's putting bookstores out of business too. I could tell you I'm trying saving paper. Really I do it because it's free and convenient, and I dislike shopping in stores. As a bonus, libraries add value to neighborhoods, which makes me feel good. I'm also happy to donate to a library, but I couldn't be persuaded to give money to (or spend for the sake of spending) on a for-profit business. However I don't begrudge anyone else's choice to do so. You do what you can to preserve your preferred options in this world.

Ken from Ken's kitchen said...

It's my understanding that the current rent arrangement SMB made with NYU is only temporary and that at some point in the not-too-distant-future the rent shoots back up.

Galwegian said...

I have tried. I have gone into St. Mark's bookstore to try to spend money. I read pretty voraciously, it is usually easy for me to find something to purchase in a bookstore, I can even find something in an airport bookstore when pressed.

But St. Mark's defeats me. I get the overwhelming impression every time of either some weird niche being catered to, or gross self-indulgence. I'm not in a creative field, so maybe the emphasis on art loses me, but there is nothing here for me.

So I applaud the idea that maybe they will consider rethinking their business plan. I would love to support them, but for people like me there would have to be a jar inside the door for me to leave a contribution, I don't want to take any of their books home.

Rich Garella said...

Lisa, in what strange sense would it be "perverse" for a group of people to support a business they like by spending their money to buy its products?

Rich Garella said...

Am I wrong to sense an icy superiority in a couple of these comments, as if the there are some people who have come to see themselves sitting above a Darwinian struggle among businesses, watching for failures so they can smugly declare that, yes, the free market is still working perfectly.

These commenters and the businesses they watch exist together in a complex society where public policies help some businesses and hurt others. The equation that results in business failure has many, many factors. In the US, for example, public policy has aggressively supported bigger businesses over smaller, in countless ways.

So, "free marketeers," don't pretend that you're the Lion King, looking down on the savannah and saying, hey, that's the circle of life. It's pure BS.

Anonymous said...

Well, yeah. There is, maybe, some haughtiness in the messages. And, as feels obligatory here, I have to declare my own affections for St. Mark's Books, they got me through school back when they were actually on St. Marks. But, haughty though they may be, some of these guys have a point, at least as business models go. The neighborhood's one of the most competitive in the city, and unless you want some sort of permanent city allowance, which would entail its own compromises (and which ain't gonna happen anyway),this is the way it's going to go. Sad to say, but there you go. They made a deal with NYU in order to survive in the first place, and fair enough, but at least some of the money you pay for your books gets kicked upstairs to the people building the dorms. You're not going to get the best of both worlds here forever.

Me, I still miss Pageant Books back on 9th...

argie said...

"You're not going to get the best of both worlds forever" is a scary comment, since things tend to slide to the worst world without intervention! I for one am definitely going to the cash mob. Whenever I need a gift for someone I try to make it a book, by the way -- books are awesome presents.

Anonymous said...

Cooper Union is the landlord, not NYU.

EastVillage OldTimer said...

Galwegian, I completely agree. I love St Marks Books from the days when it was actually ON St Marks, but back then it had more of interest to the general reader. It doesn't anymore: its stock seems to be precious and arcane and catering for effete snobs, and I very seldom find there anything I care to read, let alone buy. And I'm a writer who says this...

As for a better plan providing services, well, there's always a cafe...

Caleo said...

There is definitely commercial space available in the EV for half of what they're paying now.
If they don't have the will to move then I guess they don't really want the store to continue. I also remember when the shop was on St. Marks, and I much prefer that space. It was a bit cramped, but warm and inviting.
The current location is an unnecessary waste of space.

Anonymous said...

I'll support them even if I don't have any money at the moment....

Anonymous said...

Buy Mickola Dementiuk's books!!!He is a true east villager who was born in a detention camp and survived.

Goggla said...

I went and was disappointed not to see many neighborhood people there. It just makes me wonder how much anyone really cares about local businesses. This is not the first time this has happened. I'd like to organize more events like this for local businesses, but if people say they lament the destruction of the neighborhood, but then don't turn out to support, what's the point?

nygrump said...

"Actually profit is a pretty accurate criteria for assessing how much "the community" values a business."

I guess we really need all those crack dealers and kiddie pimps because by your logic, the community highly values them. You are a sick person.

Lisa said...

You’ll notice that I continually use quotation marks around the word "community"; I do this because it’s a meaningless catch-all word, a word which I suspect is most often employed precisely because it’s a meaningless catch-all word, useful for making exaggerated (or downright false) claims.

Since there's no such organism as the "community” (there’re only individuals), then we can only have a rational discussion about individuals and whatever it is that they do or don’t value.

When one hears the statement “Business-X is of great value to the community”, the truth of the statement can only begin to be ascertained by whether or not the business thrives. If it fails even to meet that minimum standard, then we can rest assured that the speaker is likely using “community” in hope of imposing their preferences upon the rest of us slobs.