January 23, 2019

Beloved NYC bookstore saved by GoFundMe campaign


No one likes to read about their favorite neighborhood bookstore closing, but when New York City‘s Westsider Rare & Used Books announced early last week they would need to close due to funding, readers took their fate into their own hands. According to Clayton Guse at the New York Daily News, the bookshop will remain open thanks to a crowdfunding campaign that raised $50,000.

Following owner Dorian Thornley‘s announcement, a GoFundMe page was created in hopes of securing more financial aid for the fledgling store. Bobby Panza, a resident of the Upper West Side (and presumably a customer of the store) started the page and said that, within the first 12 hours, they had a $10,000 donation.

He told The Daily News, “I’m over the moon that we raised this kind of money.”

By last Sunday, $50,000 from about 800 customers were raised to keep the store open for the foreseeable future. Just to put that in perspective, that’s $62.50 from each of those 800 customers. That’s less than two hardcover copies, probably 4-5 used books.

While the article does not detail where that money is going or how long the store can survive on this remarkable donation from the residents of the UWS, the owner did say he hopes to thank them all by throwing a party. Guse writes, “Thornley says he plans to make good on the money that’s been put up. He says he’s planning a party for those who pitched in, and is going to work to keep Westsider open for ‘as long as humanly possible.’”

There’s no doubt that this campaign is encouraging, for both booksellers and readers, but that in a city like New York a store can’t sell what amounts to two hardcovers to 800 customers to keep themselves afloat is a much more disturbing thought.

The true culprit here is obviously rising rent prices and standards of living, but what does it say about our current culture when we’re more motivated by catastrophe campaigning than the simple pleasure of buying a book?



Alex Primiani is the associate director of publicity at Melville House.