At one time the small independent bookstore seemed headed the way of old-fashioned hardware stores and tailor shops. The future of bookstores was big stores, often at big box malls, complete with coffee shops, lecture spaces, and plenty of shelf space for everything except books. Unless a smaller bookstore had a built-in audience (such as the Princeton University faculty and student body that helps support both Micawber Books and the book department of the Princeton University Store), you had to figure it would not last long.
But some of the little bookstores have proved to be retail survivors. When the founder and longtime owner of the Cranbury Book Worm died a few years ago, a good friend of the owner stepped in and kept the store going. In the heart of Trenton, a bookstore is helping to anchor the redevelopment of an entire block. When the tiny Witherspoon Art and Bookstore closed at the corner of Nassau and Bank streets, it was soon replaced — by another bookstore. And when the Princeton Public Library left its temporary space at the Princeton Shopping Center, it was replaced by yet another bookstore.
Even with that stunning, well-stocked new library in downtown Princeton and an excellent Mercer County library system, central New Jersey residents continue to haunt bookstores for the joy of spending time surrounded by thousands of volumes, any one of which could become the start of a serious love affair with a newly discovered author.