Philly Record Store Day Vs. Philly Book Store Day
BY JOEY SWEENEY
We are at what they now call "peak vinyl," and it is as grueling as it is inspirational. On Saturday, Record Store Day 2016, all over town, Men Of A Certain Type — we hesitate to make the gendered stereotype but alas, Record Store Day is, now and always shall be, absolutely alive with dudesmell — lined up outside the local shop of their choosing. And when the doors opened, punters rolled up, hopeful with their list of desired RSD offerings, and got them, or didn't.
And then it was pretty much over.
But however anti-climactic (or, alternately, sexlessly orgasmic) RSD is for the consumer, for the small stores that make up its base, it's become something else entirely: A major economic driver. Cast aside the strange horseracing and jockeying attendant to how stores order more inventory (and move more out the door on the day), and just know this: There's not a RSD-participating record store in town that doesn't see one of its top five register rings of the year on this day. For some, it is number one, no contest.
And while Record Store Day may be running into its own limitations, there seems to be a general agreement among retailers that, yes, we have this Record Store Day, and this Record Store Day is good. On Saturday, there was participation to the tune of about 15 record stores within the city limits alone.
Consider, by contrast, Book Store Day, slated for April 30th. Book Store Day is a newer thing, but peruse their website, and you'll see that A) they're clearly trying to take a cue from RSD, and B) they've got participants nationwide. But as of this writing, there's just one participating store within the city limits: The Spiral Staircase, in Manayunk.
Now, yes, there's plenty to quibble about. BSD is newer. And the lower turnout might be reflective of not just that but also what we'll call the lovably anti-social nature of most bookstores period. But looking at it here in Philly, maybe this points to a more potent kind of social anemia going on Philadelphia right now. While record stores are popping up all over the gentrified hotspots of New Philadelphia, you'll be damned if you can find a new bookstore — or surviving old one — in many of them.
You can buy a condo in Northern Liberties for half a million dollars, but you're shit out of luck if you'd like to pick up a little Kafka. (Which actually feels Kafka-esque.) Meanwhile, there's now five outposts of Jinxed, the vintage store that sells your dad's furniture on Instagram. This can't help but feel like a comment on what we talk about when we talk about New Philadelphia, but you almost don't wanna ask this question: Have we merely exchanged one kind of cultural vacancy (xenophobic old hoagiemouths) for another (dude with Warby Parker glasses who doesn't actually, you know, read books)?
All of this is what it is, and yes, it might not be anything at all. You may blather to me about Amazon, which I do use because I am a modern person and I try to use everything. You may say, well, this is just a a fluke. But in the meantime, person in line at the new Bottle Shop, tell me: Where in the fuck in this Portlandia horseshit neighborhood can I get my hands on some motherfucking Elizabeth Hardwick?
Bookstores are important. Bookstores are beautiful. And real talk: Most bookstores are their own worst enemies. But instead of hate, let's elevate, and throw the gauntlet down: First one of you to open up a bookstore in Northern Liberties, Fishtown, Kensington, or East Passyunk gets free advertising on this site for your first year of business. Prove me wrong, New Philadelphia.