• 50 Years - A Million Thanks
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Book Row

The center of book buying in New York was once a strip of used shops along Fourth Avenue below Union Square know as Book Row, which started disappearing gradually as early as the 1960s. But it's not gone yet -- New York's legendary Strand Bookstore now at 12th Street Broadway started as a tiny shop on Book Row in 1927.

Book Cover: Book Row Marvin Mondlin, who is the estate book buyer at the Strand and has worked at the store since 1951, has just co-authored a book about the used bookstores along Fourth Avenue and the culture of book buying in the city. It's called Book Row: An Anecdotal and Pictorial History of the Antiquarian Book Trade, and it's on sale at Amazon.com.

Photo of Fran Lebowitz Today, Barnes & Noble dominates the book trade in New York. The retail chain has met success with a very different strategy than that of the old storeowners of Book Row, who were famous for their ability to make you feel particularly unwelcome in their stores. As humorist Fran Lebowitz recalls, "they acted more as if you had broken into their house and were stealing their books." Barnes & Noble has taken a different approach. "People who have their weekly bridge game," Lebowitz told Rafael Pi Roman, "they have it in Barnes & Noble."

Barnes & Noble still faces competition from owner-operated shops like the Strand, which is thriving thanks to the talents of co-owners Fred and Nancy Bass. The Strand has just launched a website, it's expanding its store, considering serving coffee, and adjusting to the changing market for books -- without abandoning the spirit of Fourth Avenue.
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