The French booksellers (known as “bouquinistes”) and their stalls along the Seine are fixtures in Paris, dating from the 16th century. Tour guides call them “literary entrepreneurs.”
The one and only bookseller on Nassau Street, Labyrinth Books, has become a Princeton fixture, dating from the 21st century with its “stalls” in the form of tables pushed out onto the sidewalk. It too is a literary entrepreneur, as indicated by the fact that in spite of enormous changes and challenges in the bookselling industry, the store is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.
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“Four or five years ago, many thought that e-books would spell the end of print as we know it,” said von Moltke, who lives with Cliff and their two daughters in Princeton. “Maybe because we operate in a bit of a niche market that values print as its own . . . we were perhaps less nervous than others about this trend.
“And in fact, publishers have seen their e-book sales not only level off, but decline of late, so it seems that both e-books and print books are here to stay. Interestingly, there is now a substantial body of neuroscientific study that confirms what many readers experience: retention when reading from a page is markedly better than when reading from a screen. Add to that the persistent interruption and auto-interruption when reading on a connected device, and it becomes easy to see how reading a book is a far more immersive experience than reading a data file can be. Students everywhere, too, are showing a clear preference for a printed book over an e-book when price is not the overriding factor.”
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Labyrinth came to Princeton at the invitation of Princeton University and has had a very close partnership with the university as its official book provider. “Princeton University truly went against the trend of the day in bringing an independent, scholarly and community bookstore to town for all their book needs and has remained an incredible partner and supporter over the years,” von Moltke said.
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Even though Dorothea acknowledges that the printed book is preferred over e-books “when price is not a factor,” price is a “huge factor when buying textbooks,” and the partnership with the university has been invaluable in helping to keep the price under control.
“For better or worse, students have become very savvy at finding ‘free’ books online, at circulating pdfs of textbooks, at substituting video tutorials for textbooks, and at using social media for buying and selling from each other. So you can see why our course book operation has needed to adapt,” she said. “Fortunately, in all of this Princeton University has remained always willing to sit down with us to come up with joint solutions that benefit the students and the university while helping to support the store. As a result since 2012 we’ve been able to offer an across-the-board 30 percent discount to all students, which keeps us in the mix as a competitive option for students when they are deciding what and where to buy. As for our non-course book sales, we are happy to have been able to either hold steady or grow a little each year, and are grateful to our varied customer base, without whom we would not be here.”
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Finally, the close relationship with the community is in the store’s equivalent of bookbinding glue. This spring, the store will be averaging three to four events per week. “The events are central in allowing the store to engage with the community we serve and, we hope, in creating dialog around books that also connects people with one another,” von Moltke said.
Link to the rest at CentralJersey.com