St. Mark’s Bookshop co-owner Terry McCoy, wearing protective gloves, holds several of the books to be auctioned this Thursday. Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” has the highest reserve — the starting price below which bids won’t be accepted. Photo by Bob krasner
BY BOB KRASNER | Why a book? For that matter, why a bookshop? If you are holding this newspaper in your hands, you probably already have an answer to those questions.
For Terry McCoy and Bob Contant, the owners of the struggling St. Mark’s Bookshop, there is no question that the East Village needs them, and they are turning to the community for help.
Faced with rising costs and lower sales, the much-loved, 36-year-old establishment is “seriously looking to move soon,” according to McCoy. Since several possible locations have fallen through in the last two years, he is unwilling to say where that new space might be, other than that they are not looking anywhere outside the East Village. Publishers Weekly recently reported that E. Third St. and Avenue A could be the store’s new home.
Bookshop’s new bid to raise bucks
In an effort to stay afloat and finance the move, they are holding an auction (both online and live) of more than 50 rare, signed and annotated first editions and ephemera from some of New York City’s best-known writers. Included are works from Junot Diaz, John Ashbery, Patti Smith, Art Spiegelman, Yoko Ono, Paul Auster, Lydia Davis, Richard Hell, Wayne Koestenbaum, Phillip Lopate, Sam Shepard and Peter Straub. The online event has already begun and continues until Sun., Dec. 15.
On Thurs., Dec. 5, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. potential buyers are welcome to contribute $5 and enjoy wine and cheese while viewing the available lots. Six of the books (not yet chosen at press time) will be auctioned live that evening.
Beyond the move, according to McCoy, one possibility is that the enterprise will become a nonprofit sometime soon.
As for the future, is it all going the way of the Kindle? For many, including this writer, there is nothing quite like holding a book in one’s hands.
McCoy concurs, noting that “a book is an object — you can invest that object with your feelings. It’s a presence in your home.”
And the brick-and-mortar store itself? It’s certainly convenient to grab something on Amazon, but its algorithms don’t equal the feeling of being in a shop surrounded by millions of words and ideas and pictures and knowing that you may well take some of them home.
The experience of shopping at St. Mark’s Bookshop has always been a special one and McCoy knows why.
“We feature the most interesting books, when we are at our best,” he said.
Whether their picks come from a university or mainstream press, their aim is for customers to be “surprised by what they find,” McCoy explained. “We don’t use demographic charts. We have a sense of our community.”
For more information visit http://benefitevents.com/auctions/stmarksbooks/. St. Mark’s Bookshop, 31 Third Ave., at Ninth St., 212-260-7853.