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Signs from a Borders closing back in February via Marianne O'Leary/Flickr
Borders might be liquidating its stock and shutting its doors, but New York City's bookstore scene is far from dead. Here are ten independent shops that should fill any Borders-shaped hole in your life, no matter what you're looking for.
If what you'll miss about Borders is....
The selection: The Strand, the granddaddy of New York bookstores, houses a vast empire of new and used fiction, history, art books, memoirs, and review copies. Go with a specific book in mind and you might wind up frustrated, but there's no better place to get lost for an hour or two and emerge with an armful of novels you never even knew existed. [828 Broadway, 212-473-1452]
The events: It might never host the cast of Glee, but Cobble Hill's Bookcourt is the place to go for readings by some of the best authors working today. And because so many writers live in the neighborhood, there's always a chance of spotting big names in the audience as well as behind the lectern. [163 Court Street, 718-875-3677]
The coffee shop: There's no shame in appreciating a bookstore partly for its baked goods. The cafe at McNally Jackson in Nolita serves scones, bagels, and muffins, along with sandwiches on Balthazar bread and all sorts of hot beverages. The best part, though, is the location: The big windows look out onto Prince Street, so you can flip between reading and people-watching. [52 Prince Street, 212-274-1160]
The magazines: Big chain stores might be good for browsing the fashion monthlies, but nothing beats Kinokuniya's selection of mind-blowing Japanese glossies. The Bryant Park shop, which specializes in all things Japan, also has a cute luncheonette on the second floor. [1073 Avenue of the Americas, 212-869-1700]
The proximity to other shopping: One of the convenient things about the Columbus Circle Borders is the fact that it shares a building with J.Crew, Coach, and Stuart Weitzman. Then again, nobody decides to live in NYC because they want to spend more time in a mall. Word in Greenpoint is equally well-located with respect to cute clothing boutiques, but the shops—like Dalaga, Alter, In God We Trust, and Raised by Wolves—are all indies as well. [126 Franklin Street, Brooklyn, 718-383-0096]
The proximity to the Upper West Side: Uptown seems significantly more upset about losing Borders than Penn Station, and why not? The neighborhood has a literary legacy that's been dwindling ever since Shakespeare & Co left in 1996. Luckily, Book Culture (up by Columbia) has everything an English major could want—even one who graduated years ago. While it carries textbooks, it's also known for its wide selection of fiction and non-fiction. If you can't drag yourself all the way up to 112th Street, try Westsider Books, a crazy mishmash of used books on Broadway between 80th and 81st. [536 W. 112th Street, 212-865-1588; 2246 Broadway, 212-362 0706]
The privacy: Some people just want to drift into a bookstore and browse in total peace and quiet, but that can be tough at indie shops, where the stockists are often chatty. At St. Mark's Bookshop, an East Village classic, the salespeople are happy to answer your questions, but they won't bug you. [31 Third Avenue, 212-260-7853]
Absolutely nothing: Before the rise of digital publishing, indie bookstores and chains used to have a David and Goliath relationship, and certain shoppers resented the chains for being entirely too clean, organized, and corporate. Now, circumstances have changed so drastically that Barnes & Noble is painting itself as David in the fight versus Amazon, and it seems futile to think of poor failing Borders as "the Man." Still, if you like your bookstores weird, grungy, and anti-establishment, then you've got some good options in both Manhattan and Brooklyn. Basement-level East Village Books is an institution on St. Mark's Place, and in Cobble Hill, the Community Bookstore is such a gleeful mess that owner John Scioli called himself "a hoarder" on a local blog recently. [99 Saint Marks Place, 212-477-8647; 212 Court Street, Brooklyn 718-834-9494]