An Ode to Indie Bookstores

2 Nov

As I sit here trying to multi-task on a computer that appears legitimately confused about what decade we’re in (if it weren’t for my relatively flat monitor I’d assume that sometime overnight my entire office time-traveled back to 1989), I’m feeling particularly reaffirmed today in my decision to continue putting off the inevitable Kindle switcheroo. Said validation comes at a good time—last night I gave in to my inner shoulder-devil (whose sole points of order are eating junk food, staying out late and buying things I don’t need) and stopped by Posman Books, the indie bookseller in Grand Central.

Among all the places I turn to feed my book-buying addiction, Posman is by far the most problematic. It’s situated about a block from my office, in the very subway station I use to get to and from work every day. Its inventory—with the exception of a children’s section I openly avoid—trends towards the generally popular. With few exceptions, I’ve been able to find almost any modern nonfiction or fiction book I’ve stepped in to purchase, plus an impressive array of general fiction and literature. Most importantly, however, Posman is a bookstore the way Wingdings Books & Candy (the hypothetical bookstore I plan to open in my theoretically wealthy retirement years) will be—it’s staffed by real people who clearly read a lot, who do their best to help customers with inquiries, who make suggestions and who refrain from overt judgment (though I will say I once felt somewhat condescended to for buying The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.) Even Barnes & Noble, which is staffed by a veritable army of cashiers and re-shelvers, can’t hold a candle to the few exchanges I’ve had with Posman employees.

I feel like Posman’s Chelsea location, which based on its website looks pretty fly, gets the bulk of the attention (and may be the sole contributor to the company’s Twitter account) but I just have to say that Posman Grand Central does a damn good job of keeping an indie/book-lovers’ vibe despite being located in a central transportation hub (and thus being at least somewhat beholden to the mass-market and spontaneous tastes of commuters and other travelers.) Additionally, the store’s manager (owner? manager/owner? older gentleman with glasses?) epitomizes everything about why I’ve always wanted to own a bookstore. Case in point: Last night I popped in to buy Matt Taibbi’s Griftopia and proceeded to get into a discussion with him about the merits of Taibbi, whose entire oeuvre he seemed to have read. (For the interested, I also ended up walking out with Taibbi’s The Great Derangement and Karen Russell’s Swamplandia. The latter is being turned into an HBO series.)

There are times in my life as a consumer when I loathe interaction (I specifically hate engaging with people while shopping for clothes and getting my hair cut) but when it comes to books, nothing does one justice like a vote of confidence from an avid reader (note how most clothing stores don’t bother displaying “staff picks”). And it makes me happy that there are like-minded people out there who willingly tolerate the windowless gloom of a pricey Grand Central outpost for the ability to chat books with others. So much do I feel at home at stores like Posman that I’ve seriously considered asking if they’re hiring part-time night/weekend employees (whether or not I need the money, it’d be hard to argue that my evenings and weekends are better spent on reality shows.)

By the time I’m old, (marry) rich and can afford to open my own bookstore, printed books will probably be a thing of the past, and bookstores will either be few and far between (think record stores today) or bleak brick-and-mortar sales vehicles for various Kindle/Nook/e-reader devices (see: the front display of every Barnes & Noble right now.) Which means I don’t know what for those bookstore employees who truly enjoy helping a customer find what they’re looking for or, better yet, what they aren’t. Just know that you’ll all be welcome at Wingdings. We may only sell one printed book every two weeks, but that just gives us more time to shoot the shit.

One Response to “An Ode to Indie Bookstores”

  1. adrianne November 2, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    Can’t wait to shop at Wingdings!
    PS I hear Girl with a Dragon Tattoo makes a nice doorstop.

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