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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.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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