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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Labyrinth Books changes to Book Culture

Labyrinth Books has become Book Culture. Here's selections from the letter to the members:
From Chris Doeblin,
co-founder of Labyrinth Books and now proprietor of Book Culture.

To all members of our community,

Having negotiated our independence and dissolved the partnership that founded Labyrinth Books on 112th St, we have changed our name to Book Culture. The outward indications of this change will appear one by one in an effort to make a gradual transition. I and all the staff here are extremely proud and happy to be 100% local and 100% independent.

Our commitment to being a great academic bookstore is still paramount to our mission. We’re going to try even harder to be the most interesting, complete and valuable bookstore possible, while trying to be more of a neighborhood store as well, carrying more magazines, mass market titles, and travel guides; generally becoming a more attractive and comfortable place to browse and visit.
So much has changed in the 22 years I’ve been selling books in this neighborhood, in bookselling, in America, in all of us as we change as people and as a community. One change that’s relevant to us is the disappearance of local and small businesses, particularly bookstores. More than ever, stores like ours and the relationship that we have with each of you deserve support. Independent bookselling is essential for a healthy, developing, progressive community and of course Independent bookstores are essential to literature, writing and scholarship, which make you essential to us.
Some historical notes and more on why we have to make this change.

My partner and I began working together in the early 80’s at BookForum which was in the space next to Ollie’s on Broadway. We became junior partners there and eventually left to found our own company in the mid 90’s. That company, Great Jones Books, was founded to buy and sell academic remainders with a vision of opening our own store back in the Columbia Neighborhood.

Jonathan Cole, Columbia’s Provost at that time, shared our interest in having a great bookstore at Columbia and with the written and vocal support of many, including in particular Edward Said who lived around the corner from the shop my partner and I ran, a space was finally offered to us in 1996. The post office was being moved from its space on Amsterdam for the new building and the new location seemed to have enough space upstairs to offer a great bookstore. Ten years later, and we are still here.

The partnership had run its course long ago however. For my part I had tried to find a path to independence for many years. After a time of disagreements we were able finally to agree on one more thing, that it was time to split up. Giving up the name was part of the cost.

My former partners continue to operate a store in New Haven called Labyrinth Books and a catalog and the website that also use that name. This store, Book Culture, is in no way related to any of those businesses any longer.

The new web site is

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Anonymous Anonymous on Fri Aug 31, 06:41:00 PM:
I think I believe him. I read over the email twice when I received it...trying to decide whether this was good or bad news. And I would consider it goodish news if it wasn't for the name... the name... by gad...the name... BOOK CULTURE??? Is that the best they could do?