Tuesday night was a sad night, as I made what, barring any last-minute runs, will be my last visit to the Strand Annex on Fulton St. in NYC. It always hurts just a little to see a bookstore close, particularly an independent one (though it should be noted that the Strand proper will not be closing...if it did, believe me when I tell you that I would not be able to hold it together long enough to write a blog post about its demise).
The annex has been in a steady decline in recent years, starting with the decision several years back to get rid of their new reviewers' copies section. While it wasn't nearly as comprehensive as the same section in the main store, there were many times when I found a copy of a book at the annex that I couldn't grab at the flagship. Plus, the annex was just a short walk from the Staten Island Ferry, so it was a convenient place to hit on the way home back in my salad days in Staten Island.
I'm not quite nerdy enough to be able to look at my bookshelves and tell you the books that I bought at the annex (though I can do that with a fair part of my CD collection), but I'm sure I picked up some Kinky Friedman books there, along with various other paperbacks (the annex actually usually had a better selection of new paperbacks than the main store's) and even a few CDs (which the main store only started carrying recently). Two of the finds I can definitely pinpoint as coming from the annex were the first-season media guides for the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild, which I like to think will be worth something someday, provided either one of those franchises eventually does something memorable.
Anyway, like I said, I hate to see an independent book store go under (from what I understand, the annex lost its lease). On the positive side, though, when said independent bookstore does bite the dust, there is the inevitable "everything must go" sale. And I am pleased to say that I was able to pick up ten books that I am reasonably confident I will read in the near future (the least likely candidate being The Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens, which is over 700 pages but seemed like a steal for $5) for just over $40. It was a fine last trip. I'll miss the annex, as much as one can miss a place of commerce.
I hope the other independent bookstores can hang on through these tough economic times and in the Age of Kindle (Richard Cohen says as much here). I guess you can browse thousands of books online, but there's nothing quite like the feel of a book and the feel of a giant bookstore that teases you with all those stories you've never read. Almost every time I was in the annex, I left with a book I didn't intend to buy going in. And that's a damn beautiful thing. The city--and the world at large--can't afford to lose such beauty.
Goodbye, old friend. Thanks for the books.
The Strand Annex will remain open until August 15. All books are currently 50% off (of the prices that are already generally 50% off). Plenty of books left.