Indie Bookstores of New York City

A blog about Independent Bookstores in NYC and how they are surviving in the digital age

Tag: Brooklyn


Name: WORD

Location: 126 Franklyn Street, Brooklyn, NY



Description: This cute, two-room bookstore has the feel of a small book boutique. The walls are painted in soft blues and yellows, with the exception of one, which maintains its original brick-face. Red and white hand-painted signs with cursive lettering indicate the main shelf sections, and book recommendations can be found scattered throughout the racks. Soft classic rock music plays from a singular speaker tucked back on a shelf filled with indie-style board games. A collection of tote bags and WORD merchandise hangs off a cloths line in the back corner near the staircase that leads down to their event room.IMG_6795

What I like: This small store makes good use of the space it has available, and they seem to go out of their way to make the book browsing experience pleasant and communal. A small shelf near the front desk lists recommended reads and showcases the books currently being read by their book clubs. One shelf has a sign above it listing the top ten books of the month while another displays books from their upcoming events. Another fun feature of this bookstore is the sheer number of coloring books and special markers that they sell as well as the variety in different notebooks and stationary cards. These elements contribute to the boutique-esque vibe of the store because even though they are related to writing and creativity, they widen the range of cute items for customers to choose from.

How they are combating the pressures of the digital age: This store has strong communities ties. In addition to being part of IndieBound, WORD prides itself on being “whatever communities need [them] to be.” While their original location is in Brooklyn, they recently opened a second location in Jersey City, and they tailor their store’s products and features to what the surrounding community needs and wants.IMG_6793 They state that, “In Brooklyn that means carrying a lot of paperback fiction (especially classics), cookbooks, board books, and absurdly cute cards and stationery.” However they also consider themselves “friends” for every type of event ranging from “the classic author reading and Q&A to potlucks and a basketball league,” which they host in the park across the street. This month (July) they are also taking part in a community “Where’s Waldo” scavenger hunt, which encourages store visitors to shop locally.IMG_6796 Interestingly, the WORD website does not appear to have an online store and online book browsing is limited to a small selection of recommended e-books. WORD has partnered with Kobo, an e-book publishing company, to make e-book available to their customers. Their website offers a brief statement on their view of digital books. They say, “You’ve all probably read at least one article about how print books are dying and how in 30 seconds or 30 years, we’ll all be reading via microchips embedded in our brains. It may not surprise you to hear that we don’t actually believe that! But we do think that reading digitally has its perks, and if you think so too, then we are still your source for advice and recommendations.”


Quoted information from

The Powerhouse Arena

IMG_6741Name: The Powerhouse Arena

Location: Currently closed, but will be reopening at a new location in Brooklyn not far from the old store.


Description: Unfortunately, I arrived at The Powerhouse Arena two days before they closed so it was hard to capture an accurate representation of what the store is like. I thought instead I would share one of their videos, which shows off the space and some of the many awesome book readings, lectures, and other events they have held over the years.

How they are combating the pressures of the digital age: In addition to their many events, The Powerhouse Arena hosts several art exhibitions each year. They also acts as a home for the publisher powerHouse Books. As a publisher, their books focus on the arts and include topics ranging from fine arts to fashion. They say of their work, “We have blazed a trail through the staid book publishing industry, releasing books that have sparked cultural trends and redefined commonly held perceptions of the purpose and role of art books in contemporary culture.” IMG_6746The Powerhouse Arena also plays an important role in the annual New York Photo Festival, which aims “to present in a dynamic and polished manner the best new work being producing in the photography and art world.” Finally, The Powerhouse Arena has an extensive online store that is still up and running despite the current absence of a physical location. They offer a large selection of items ranging from limited edition Powerhouse Arena tote bags to artwork and stationary. Their store menu bar even has an option for “gift registry” from which you can add items to any online registry.


Quoted material from:

Video from Powerhouse Arena’s Vimeo account searchable from their main website.

Desert Island

Name: Desert Island

Location: 540 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211



Description: Desert Island is a small, one-room comic book store. The large window houses a display, not of books, but of a papier-mâché dragon swooping down on little human figurines below. The interior of the store presents a similar design theme. Comic books are tightly packed on shelves, and a large mobile, chandelier of shiny, blue arrows illuminated by a bare light bulb hangs in the middle of the room. The back wall is covered in orangey, reddish paisley wallpaper that contains beige and black print designs of a place that appears to be somewhere in India. Various other abstract posters also cover the walls. The wooden floors are a stunning shade of chartreuse and some bookshelves sport a coat of electric blue paint. Jazz plays softly in the background completing the seemly random yet somehow cohesive bookstore atmosphere.


What I like: This bookstore offers a wide variety of comics and graphic novels. They sell everything from mainstream Marvel and DC comics to independently published comics, zines, posters and prints. They also sell several vintage editions of Mad Magazine. Like a couple of the other stores visited so far, Desert Island supports local artists, and the front of the store contains two racks dedicated to independent works created by those artists.IMG_5624 In addition, the quirky store decorations make browsing an exciting experience because every time you look up from a book or from the shelves, you spot something new on the walls. The shop seems busy despite its small size, and the staff member running the checkout counter is friendly and knowledgeable. Definitely would recommend a trip out here for all of your comic book needs.

How they are combating the pressures of the digital age: In addition to running a bookstore, Desert Island also acts as a publisher. They produce their own series called Smoke Signal, which they call “a quarterly tabloid comics anthology,” that showcases work from both established and up-and-coming independent artists. The comic is available for purchase on their web store, or can be picked up for free at their physical location in Brooklyn. The store sells ad space in these comics and their upcoming issue will be “hand distributed in the NYC subway system,” making this an enticing place for advertisements since it will receive a lot of views.IMG_5628 In addition, Desert Island is responsible for organizing the annual Comic Arts Brooklyn Festival, which presents events such as movie screenings, artist talks, book signings, and exhibitions. One interesting element of their digital presence is that their only website is a Tumblr account. They do have social media pages, and though they seem to post the same content on each page, they have a decent following and are able to use their platforms to promote artists and engage their fans. Finally, the store sells other items including patches and Desert Island themed items such as t-shirts, wrapping paper, and coasters.


Quoted information from:

Greenlight Bookstore

Name: Greenlight Bookstore

Location: 686 Fulton Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217



Description: Walking into Greenlight Bookstore is like walking back into the 1920’s. The storefront windows are outlined with a rich green trim, which extends over the top and creates arcs in the frosted glass panels above. The inside of the store is spacious, and despite the large display tables dotting the floor, there is still plenty of room to browse. IMG_6765Books are tightly packed on shelves, and some have been stacked sideways to create more room. This arrangement creates a seamless, eye-catching display of colors and shapes to draw a reader’s attention. The center bookshelf maintains the 1920’s feel with large, white support structures that begin to arc over the narrow passageways leading towards the back of the store. The further back you travel, the more there is to discover. The store itself almost feels endless, until you loop around and find yourself back in the main section.

What I Like: The atmosphere of this bookshop is amazing. In part, the unique structure and layout of the store contributes to this atmosphere, but the atmosphere is also enhanced by just how quiet the store is. Despite being filled with people, the store did not feel crowded, and there was very little chatter. The quietness in combination with the seamless flow off books and seemingly section-less shelves creates a serene browsing environment in which it is easy to loose track of time.IMG_6769 The store also sells a great deal of New York City and New York State based books and items all laid out on the inside of one of the store windows. Next to that, is a small corner filled with fliers and local advertisements, demonstrating Greenlight Bookstore’s interest in the community. In addition to supporting the local community, Greenlight Bookstore also supports up and coming writers by showcasing and selling a selection of works that have been independently published.

How they are combatting the pressures of the digital age: Greenlight Bookstore is combating the pressures of the digital age through a mix of different methods.  Perhaps the most effective method is through the various community partnerships they have formed. On the home page of their website is an option to “Find Your School,” which leads the viewer to a page that shows all of the local schools Greenlight Bookstore has partnered with in the past as well as the events they have co-hosted.

Greenlight bookstore also sells a variety of notebooks and store-related merchandise.

Greenlight Bookstore also sells a variety of notebooks and store-related merchandise.

They also have a strong partnership with the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) and run a kiosk in two locations during BAM events. BAM members also receive a discount on BAM-related merchandise purchased through Greenlight Bookstore. In addition to these partnerships, Greenlight Bookstore has several book groups and a paid subscription service called “The First Editions Club” in which subscribers receive a recently published book each month. Another interesting feature of Greenlight Bookstore’s website is the link to their podcast and their Tumblr page. Their podcast covers material such as author discussions, book reviews, and current releases. Their Tumblr page is a blog that covers material such as progress updates on the renovations of their soon-to-open second location, general event updates, and user generated content such as readers who submitted photos of their bookshelves.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén