Before she opened Little City Books in Hoboken in May, Kate Jacobs considered adopting a formula that one of her two co-founders, Donna Garban, had come up with.
“She said, ‘If everybody in Hoboken buys one
book a year, we’ll be fine,’” says Jacobs, a musician
who has watched more than a few book shops come
and go since moving to the Mile Square City in 1981.
“I thought, That’s a nice, clear goal.”
Then she did the math. Considering that Hobo-
ken’s population is almost 53,000, Little City
would have to sell an average of 145 books per day,
365 days a year, to hit Garban’s target. Seen in that
light—and considering the well-publicized plight
of other booksellers over the past decade—the
goal becomes somewhat quixotic.
The dwindling of independent bookstores is
old news. What’s new is the optimism, however
guarded, of booksellers like Jacobs and her Little
“What’s been amazing is, as soon as word got
out that we were opening the store, so many people came out of the woodwork to say how interested they were in what we’re doing,” Jacobs says.
“There’s a huge community of editors, writers and
publishers in town, and they all wanted a bookstore as much as we did.” Since the local Barnes &
Noble closed in 2010, Hoboken has made do with
a single used bookstore, Symposia.
The Internet has battered book retailing, par-
BOUND FOR GLORY: Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, opposite page, creates an inviting space for
browsers and attracts large crowds for in-store readings. Other successful indie bookstores in the
Garden State include, clockwise from top left, Town Book Store in Westfield, Words! in Asbury Park,
Bookateria Two in Ocean City and Montclair Book Center in Montclair.
Photographs by Frank Marshall P H