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Book him! Atlantic Bookshop to close in latest demise of print vs. pixels

The Brooklyn Paper

Failed bookstore manager Jed Hershon has met the enemy — and it’s the Internet.

Atlantic Bookshop has launched its “beginning of the end” sale and plans to shutter soon, breaking the hearts of Brooklyn’s print diehards who refused to read “Gatsby” on a Kindle.

The shop is another victim of a millennial clash every bit as momentous as when Johannes Gutenberg started printed Bibles — but Hershon is the one in the book business as print changes to pixels.

Instead of evolving, he’s choosing to give up, hanging a “30-percent off” sign and trying to move stock before the end comes.

“The enemy of a brick-and-mortar bookstore is the Internet,” Hershon said. “But books online is death to me. The joy to me is having an actual store.”

For 15 years in Manhattan, Atlantic Bookshop was a bibliophile’s paradise, where people browsed musty tomes and Hershon manned a psychedelic-pop playlist. The store opened on Atlantic Avenue three years ago, between Clinton and Court streets, to escape West Brooklyn’s skyrocketing rents.

Hershon’s decision to relocate to Brooklyn, lower rent or not, does raise one question in these times: Who opens a used bookstore in the digital age?

“We took a chance, and everything went wrong,” he said. “We thought there was a market here and that this could really work.”

For a while, it did work, as readers were pleased to find Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” or Plato’s dialogues for $3. The shop appealed to collectors, too, who can snag rare copies of Patti Smith’s poetry for $200 or a 1963 copy of “Industrial Ceramics” for $50.

Quirky devotees like Frederick “Captain Tiptop” Rugger called it “a serious bookshop for serious people.” He recently walked out with a 1953 copy of “Restless House” by Émile Zola for $4.

Anna Wayland, a Park Slope musician and poet, comes in for quirky out-of-print hardcovers. She detests online shopping; she wants to hold something before she buys it.

Popping in to the scholarly haunt “allows fate and chance to happen,” Wayland said. “To allow things to happen on the fly, instead of having your head in a computer.”

The issue apparently isn’t rent; Hershon admits that plummeting foot traffic — not a lease hike — brought his shop’s demise.

Still, Hershon wants to make one last stab, telling Gothamist that he’ll meet with Borough President Markowitz next week in hopes of creating a regular flea market — preferably in a city-owned building — for used books.

“It may not happen at all, but we could make it a great place to buy books in Brooklyn, and put Manhattan to shame,” Hershon said, touting the market as “a place for the person who wants to come in and browse all this lost knowledge. You can do that online, but it’s a poor substitute for the real thing.”

A spokesman for Markowitz said that the Beep looks forward to “discussing his ideas and seeing if we can help in any way.”

It’s certainly not the first time that a print Mecca has fallen to digital competition. Heights Books on Smith Street closed in February. And a couple of years ago, Park Slope’s Seventh Avenue Books and Park Slope Books closed.

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bb from brooklyn heights says:
maybe if mr. hershon sought some press attention — or bought a few ads — earlier on, he'd have more traffic.

i found his store fabulous — the one time i stumbled upon it. but that block of atlantic is hardly on the radar for most people in brooklyn heights and cobble hill, and it fell off my radar as well.

i can testify that hardly any — possibly none — of my neighbors were aware of it.
May 9, 2011, 2:15 am
LOLcat from Park Slope says:
I've been to this store and while nice, I totally understand why used bookstores are going the way of the Dodo. Why goto a store where I'm only hoping to find what I'm looking for (at a somewhat reasonable price) when within 3 seconds on ebay I can find the title exactly what I'm looking for, for less money? For example: I got a 1st edition of the powerbroker with no DJ for .99. (5 dollars total once shipped).
May 9, 2011, 11:49 am
Book luvva from Brooklyn Heights says:
Actually, he is his own worst enemy. Went in a number of times soon after the store opened, asked about titles, asked whether he might be able to call if some came in, answer, NO. Very grumpy, unpleasant - took my money without a word of greeting or thanks. Stopped visiting. I still buy books. I shop where I feel like the store owner wants me to be there
May 9, 2011, 12:23 pm
bb from brooklyn heights says:
both LOLcast and Book luvva make valid points.

to LOLcast: the reason some people still adore SOME used bookstores is the randomness of it. sure, you can order a SPECIFIC title and get it cheap and fast delivered to your door. but you're less likely to stumble upon something unexpected and delightful.

to Book luvva: yeah, that's a problem. if you open a store, you really have to like helping (guiding, instructing and, ultimately, selling) people.

to anyone traveling in the Hudson Valley this summer, there's a great used bookstore, run by great helpful people, in Uptown Kingston --Half Moon Book [http://maps.google.com/maps/place?client=safari&rls=en&oe=UTF-8&um=1&ie=UTF-8&q=used books uptown kingston ny&fb=1&gl=us&hq=used books uptown&hnear=Kingston, NY&cid=5389301409015595208] … i stumbled upon this store and try to stop there whenever i'm driving north.
May 9, 2011, 1:45 pm
sigh from Dumbo says:
"...but Hershon is the one in the book business as print changes to pixes."

I really wish The Brooklyn Paper would hire a proofreader.
May 9, 2011, 2:12 pm
Myrtle Willoughby from Fort Greene says:
This is, unfortunately, the first I've heard of this bookstore although I would have gone had I known it existed.

The headline and article blame "digital" (presumably online bookstores and ebooks) for this bookstore's demise, and others, but no evidence is presented that that's why this or any other bookstore has closed. The article's presumption may very well be true, but is it so obvious that it needs to identify the murderer without the detective offering proof of at least reasonable suspicion. Or are ebooks and online bookstores like African American young men and simple possibility suffices for indictment?
May 9, 2011, 6:03 pm
thomas lawrence from brooklyn heights says:
I once read a book about publishing books that said that the book market is about 25% of the US population. However, the average US college graduate has read only one book since graduation. Today on the radio I heard that 80% of the US population read NO books at all, ever!
May 9, 2011, 11:49 pm
Mike from Cobble Hill says:
Jed is getting what he deserves. Always has been a bitter person to deal with. And in the case of this sale his windows are plastered with 30% off sale flyers that have the picture of a guy putting a gun to his head. Really? Go away.

Marty Markowitz should not meet with this guy. He represents nothing. Down on Court Street there are three indie bookstores that are still doing business: BookCourt, Community Bookstore & Pranga. If he can't get business or work with his neighbors, kick him out.
May 10, 2011, 1:56 pm
VoiceOfTruth from 11211 says:
Local buggy whip storeowner has met the enemy and it is the automobile.

Electronic books are more convenient and take up no space, which is invaluable in a city where we cram into small spaces. I save meaningful square footage by digitizing my book and media collection. The march of progress continues.
May 11, 2011, 9:38 am
Jed from 11201 says:
For the record, I have many customers who like me fine, it's usually the really demanding, childish, touchy people with an enormously warped sense of their own importance who get upset when not treated as royalty.

There are always disgruntled people at a used bookstore, for many reasons, and those above are merely flexing their whiny muscle. I've had complaints about the other employee too, and in the end, the complaints are few, except for blogs where people can anonymously whine and "get even" in their tiny minds.

I wish you all luck in your endless pursuit to criticize things you know nothing about. comparing us to Pranga is ridiculous and shows the ignorance of a fool who would say such a thing.

Finally, Mike has no sense of humor, I do. I'm trying to have fun with a terrible situation. I will continue to do so, you can't please everyone, but never people like Mike. They are just too stupid.
May 11, 2011, 11:43 am
Jed from 11201 says:
By the way, terrible article.
May 11, 2011, 11:54 am
Janine from Park Slope says:
I love this store and I love the manager too. He's dramatic, you bet, but hilarious, and VERY knowledgeable. I'm a collage artist and he's been setting aside broken books and such for me for years. A great store, a great resource, a great loss.

I hope Marty DOES MEET with him. I think the idea of a book building in Brooklyn for sellers of used and rare is a fantastic idea. There is no comparison btw Atlantic Books and the other neighborhood bookstores which sell new books, are commercial/intellectual and stroller-friendly.
May 11, 2011, 12:59 pm
Sven from Lower Garden District says:
This store smells like Otto's jacket!
May 12, 2011, 12:55 am
Bubba from New Orleans says:
Sven is a communist
May 14, 2011, 2:20 pm
BillBurroughs from Carroll Gardens says:
Wow. Jed, almost everyone I know who went to your bookstore mentioned the same thing - that you were more concerned with having another cigarette than any kind of actual customer service. I always got the sense that you didn't really care - maybe it's just your casual personality or your mind was on the next smoke, but customer service takes something exceptional, especially if you want to stay in business in what has increasingly become a niche market. I've worked at Barnes & Noble, Tower Records, Bookcourt, Park Natural, and countless bars and restaurants. Customer service is about being light and engaged. It is about having fun and making connections with your customers. The other clerk there at Atlantic Books absolutely seemed much more present and had far less attitude.

You may have had a few good books there, but to really get into a community's heart, you need to have pretty tight relationships with your customers. You never did create that, Jed - and I can say that from being very friendly with the Zooks at Bookcourt, Mehmet at Pranga, and John at Community books on Court St. Notice I didn't even know your name until this article came out - and I used to make somewhat of an effort to support you, that is until I started feeling badly that you weren't usually friendly.

Missed opportunity. And your rebuttal just proved what everyone suspected - that you've got a ton of anger that's burning you up. And, yeah, that gun to the head on the sign in the window did come off as kind of extreme - I've also worked in mental health and suicide prevention - your sign was sort of adolescent and wasn't really funny.

You know, sometimes it's good to be humble and just improve your standing in the community by saying "guys, I ——ed up and I'm sorry I didn't really show that I loved my customers". It's good for you. : )

Best of luck, Jed - and I hope you find something that lights you up after the store closes. And quit smoking before the emphysema catches up, man - it's a pain in the ass to drag around an oxygen tank. I quit a couple of years ago - BEST thing I ever did! ; )
May 15, 2011, 8:48 am
BillBurroughs from Carroll Gardens says:
And, in case anyone hasn't noticed yet, the Brooklyn Paper is owned by the savage and Republican Rupert Murdoch now and is considered to be the sister paper of the NY Post. Look elsewhere for your news, probably! (Why else would they censor words they don't like, such as "——"? Let's see if their computer catches FCUK...)
May 15, 2011, 8:58 am
Jed from 11201 says:
Here's my final word on this. We have always been a self-serve store. I have always helped a customer if they asked. I am not Dale Carnegie, many people mistake my neutrality for apathy. I admit I do not fake friendliness if I don't feel it, but was always willing to help with BOOKS, not therapy. Being a clerk means people use you as their scapegoat for the day and after 30 years in retail, I don't often accept it anymore. The fact is buying a $4 book does not hurt, but it doesn't help. Buying a $4 book does not support the store. It's not as if flocks of people would have been beating down our door if I was more like dale carnegie, true book people don't care, they only care about the books, which they tend to buy online now.

Some people would like to say bad things about me now that it's over, not understanding how the USED market works now. There are about nine different reasons why we failed and my being aloof or smoking is at the bottom of the list. Being lectured after the fact is lame, meant only to bother me, which it does, but my response to Mike is not just anger, it's the truth. I have a reason to be defensive when someone says stupid, incorrect things.

"Bill Burroughs" does not seem vindictive but also doesn't seem to understand things completely. He wants it to seem like I was not there for anyone all the time, which is just not true. I have so many regulars who like me, liked my sign, enjoy the store, come when I'm there, and others are secure enough to handle shopping there even though we may not talk. Often I talk a lot with folks, joke around, etc. the truth is often people won't admit they've crossed a line to test how I'll respond and I don't play that idiotic game very well.

Leaving Manhattan because of tripled rent is why we failed. The economy collapse, the internet, the costly move. Brooklyn Heights will not support a store like ours enough, not even if I gave everyone a flower and smiled ear to ear. Brooklyn Heights is like one big Addams family. Not enough real book people visited from the city. Only 5% of the population even understands a store like ours anyway. It's becoming a very stupid world, a very touchy, PC world of whiny blogs and comments.

Anyway, I am truly sorry for the times I barked when it wasn't called for, and stand by all the times I bit when confronted with people who had an agenda. The other employee adopted an artificial personalty which I guess most folks prefer, believe me, he hates what I hate just as much. He just chooses to keep it to himself and I don't.

So anyway, thanks for everything to the people who were actual customers and kept us close for a while. I worked there for 15 years and had a ball almost all the time. It's the neighborhood's loss, at least that's what everyone keeps telling me TO MY FACE instead of anonymously online.

For those who don't think I'm the devil, I would let you know that I met with the Borough President and his staff about building or taking over a building just for used bookstores, a destination. It went well, and may happen years down the road. I care about lost knowledge and having an open space to browse books as opposed to online listings.

Finally, if those who hate me want, they can come down and throw tomatoes at me, or feel a rush by telling me how glad you are that we're closing or whatever. Most people aren't interested in the big picture, just their little post stamp sized world.
May 16, 2011, 2:18 am
jm from clinton hill says:
I started going to 12th St, then occasionally stopped in Atlantic. I preferred living in the city when people were colorful and had a sense of making a day a thing to enjoy. Hacking away at the internet is not making a day of it. Getting lost in a book shop, and having a volley of conversation with the eclectic manager is. Jed is a freak, but my kind of freak. The straights are making a hash out of this world. They are their own worst enemy. Dull, dull, dull. Too bad everything of interest in this city is being replaced by cheap, ugly condos and bank of america on every other corner.
May 16, 2011, 8:22 am
roni from midtown says:
Jed's bookstore is the kind of place where you let your own brain and your own thoughts lead you through the aisles. I love this store. The selection of books is smart and serious. I come out of that bookstore inspired. Nothing in there smells of Danielle Steele or overly erudite - just good books. You don't like Jed's demeanor? Awwww. Ask him about a book, any book. Chances are he knows the publisher, the year it was published and subsequent titles by the author. And he probably read it...
May 16, 2011, 9:43 am
RBB from Brooklyn Heights says:
I was a regular customer at Atlantic and before that at 12th Street. I also for a time helped to run Heights Books, when it was on Montague Street and then when it was on Smith Street. What did both stores in was the economy -- not online books, not ebooks. For most people, books are not necessities of life but luxury buys and impulse buys. In tough times, people cut their luxury and impulse buying to the bone or do away with it altogether. Buying books online may be great for those who know exactly what book they want and don't want to bother with hunting for it, but the serendipity of going into a used bookstore and finding something on the shelf that you didn't know you wanted till you eyeball it there, or something that you'd been looking for for years but gave up on finding till you stumble across it, is a joy that comes only with walking into a used bookstore. Perhaps those days are numbered, and we won't know the wonderment of a totally unexpected find ever again. That would be a great loss.
May 17, 2011, 2:57 pm
Gene Callahan from Carroll Gardens says:
Jed, I win, you lose. Good-bye!
June 20, 2011, 6:59 pm
Lane Williams from Philly Native! says:
Good morning, Jed.

No one can be more abrasive than a Philies Fan! So I won't go there! You are the Albrect Dürer of the Western Hemisphere! Although I had the opportunity of visiting your store only once, I had looked forward to visiting your place again when in NYC. I wish for you continued success (although not with the Dodgers ... TSK!) in your bookselling endeavors.

The character, and realism of the 'printed page' is not unlike the fine woodcuts of A.D. Thank you for being there!

All the best,

Ralphael Lane Williams, RHIA
813 Deercrest Lane
Evans, GA 30809
lanewms@comcast.net
Sept. 9, 2011, 11:01 am
Volker Doege from Germany says:
During the last 2 wks. I bought 2 rare books and had excellent friendly service. So I can only tell the best!
Sept. 12, 2011, 11:12 am

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