Name: Book Culture on Columbus

Location: 450 Columbus Avenue, New York, NY

Website: http://www.bookculture.com

Description: As a re-introduction to my blog, I thought it would be fitting to start with the third Book Culture location referenced in my first post. Book Culture on Columbus is the largest and most different stylistically from the other two locations that I visited previously (albeit that was almost two years ago, so perhaps they have since changed). As with the location on West 114th Street, the front of the store is brightly lit by large windows. However, Book Culture on Columbus’ size provides for a more spacious entryway. A unique layout allows for two different browsing experiences depending on where in the store you choose to walk. On the left, large tables filled with books run from one end of the store to the other. On the right, a series of narrow, dimly lit passages provide a more intimate way to browse some of the store’s other wares such as teapots, hourglasses, bowls, and lotions. Venture far enough, and you will find an uncluttered writing desk with a sign inviting visitors to sit down and write a letter. The sign says, “ Please use our stationary and desk to write a letter. It’s time well spent in an art worth keeping. As you take pen in hand, you may feel your heart open as you prepare to set yourself to paper.” The sign also kindly notes that Book Culture will pay for the stamp and post your letter if you leave it in the letter holder located on top of the desk.

What I Liked: There are two features of this store that stand out from the other Book Culture locations I have visited. The first is the writing desk tucked away for only the most dedicated bibliophiles and lovers of words. The second feature can be found on a relatively small table in the center of the store’s main room and located almost directly in front of the cash registers. Mysterious packages wrapped in plain, brown paper sit unassumingly on display. Upon closer examination, book browsers will find hand written messages taped to the front of these packages, which say “Read Me if you liked,” followed by a list of four books similar to the one hidden underneath the wrapping. I liked this concept so much that I purchased one for myself. I was not at all disappointed with the result. While, I would love to go into further detail about this particular element, I hesitate for fear of giving away any possible surprises.

How they are combatting the Pressures of the Digital Age: As mentioned in my prior post about the Book Culture locations, the store’s strong digital presence enhances the in-store shopping experience, and Book Culture’s numerous events encourage patrons to visit the stores in person. In revisiting the page, the store has added two features, which appear to be keeping pace with some of the contemporary trends of the Internet Age. The first of these additions is the offering of a subscription service called Book Culture Selects. By signing up for Book Culture Selects, subscribers can choose from several categories including “Queer Voices,” “Picture Books,” “Poetry,” “Literature in Translation,” “Forever Young (Adult)”, “Around the World,” and “New and Noteworthy” for both fiction and non-fiction. Books will be shipped depending on reader preference, ranging in frequency from one to three months, and come with a handwritten letter and bookmark that doubles as a feedback card. When clicking on the “Learn More” link below each category, shoppers are directed to a page that introduces the Book Culture staff member responsible for choosing the books you will receive as part of your subscription, giving the service a personal and neighborly feel.

The second feature that Book Culture has added is the option to join as a one-year member. For $49 a year, membership to Book Culture provides access to exclusive members-only events and sales, as well as a 10% discount on all purchases, and free shipping should you choose to make use of the selection of books available online. The store also offers a student membership at a reduced rate and in partnership with select universities and colleges. This membership provides students with a 10% discount on in-store purchases (112th and 114th only) as well as on all coursebooks.