Hopeful shopping

Photo by Deirdre Schoo for The New York Times

Last week the New York Times' Thursday Styles section profiled bookstore owner Sarah McNally, who owns "the determinedly WiFi-free McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street in Nolita." It was a really enjoyable read, and here are a few reasons why:

  • The Espresso Book Machine

  • Had you ever heard of this? I hadn't, but it's amazing. It's a machine that prints any book on demand, and McNally Jackson Books has the only one in New York City (there are only 80 worldwide.) It has seven million titles available on it, and it prints each book in a matter of minutes.

    The machine can cost more than $100,000, a huge investment for an independent bookstore, but it makes sense when the NYT describes it as "Ms. McNally's grand gambit against the e-book pestilence." I also loved this description:

    Ms. McNally gazed tenderly at the behemoth as it printed 'Veiled Women,' by Marmaduke Pickinthall (1913) for a customer. "Look," she cooed, as mechanical thingamabobs measured and bound the new book. "It's still warm, like cookies fresh out of the oven."

  • She's kooky in a good way

    And the profile is full of little tidbits as evidence. To wit:

    She sipped tea, coughing, her thin body shaking. Bad cold? "Technically, I had tuberculosis," she said with a shrug.

  • The psychology of book buying

  • I always think of aspirational shopping as purchasing a fancy pair of shoes that don't fit into your lifestyle, a pair of jeans that are too snug, or a luxury car you can't quite afford. But buying books can be similar in that it represents the kind of person you hope to be, knowledge you hope to have in the future. I never thought of it that way until I read this: 

    "I believe that within every great reader there are multitudes of people," she said... Book buying is aspirational, she added. "They are deeply hopeful purchases."
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