New York-based store acquires Book Haven

After nearly 27 years and thousands of books sold, Book Haven was purchased by Labyrinth Books of New York City on Tuesday.

Sharing Book Haven’s commitment to independent bookselling in the academic marketplace, Labyrinth Books will continue to provide course books for professors at Yale and will accommodate a greatly increased number of books, including new releases, back-list titles and remaindered books.

Book Haven owner Susan Schwab DRA ’76, who opened the York Street store in 1978 with her husband Henry Schwab ’63 GRD ’72, said she thinks Labyrinth Books will continue to provide a valuable alternative to the Yale Bookstore.

“I wouldn’t have sold the store just to sell it unless I was sure it was being placed in good hands,” Schwab said. “Although I’m sure there will be some changes, Labyrinth Books has a remarkably similar philosophy of paying attention to more than best-sellers and universally mass-marketed books.”

Labyrinth Books currently operates a store devoted to academic and scholarly books in New York City that supplies a large percentage of Columbia University’s course books. Columbia professors who order their course books at Labyrinth exclusively receive a 25 percent discount on all titles except for short discount books, as will be the policy at the New Haven store.

Labyrinth Books owner Cliff Simms said he will bring the same philosophy he employs at his store in New York City to New Haven.

“We are very much interested in scholarly bookselling to serious readers, and we think New Haven is a wonderful community for that,” Simms said. “We want to be involved in reading at all levels, from grade-school students to university students and faculty.”

In the next eight weeks, the shop on York Street will be closed while Labyrinth entirely refurbishes the space to include more bookshelves and a new design. The owners have invited the remaining employees at Book Haven to work at Labyrinth but also plan to hire locally.

Religious studies professor Ivan Marcus, who used to shop exclusively at the Yale Co-op before it closed down, said he thinks Labyrinth Books has the potential to fill the void the Co-op left in New Haven. He said he hopes the renovation will include air conditioning, a bathroom and longer store hours.

“Labyrinth Books will be a bigger store with a wider variety of academic titles than Book Haven,” Marcus said. “Considering that New Haven has lost a few used bookstores in recent years, it will be good to have a new one that is happy to stock its shelves.”

With the expansion of an alternative bookstore will come increased competition with Yale’s Barnes and Noble bookstore, which sells old and new course books as well as well as other academic titles and bestsellers. Yale Bookstore manager Neil LeVeau said he thinks his store does a good job of catering to both the academic and commercial community because of its ties to a national retailer and a world-renowned university.

“Labyrinth will force us to do a better job of what we do here, but anything that brings traffic into the city and a new storefront to the Broadway area is a good thing,” LeVeau said.

After nearly three decades of business, several professors said they have grown very attached to Book Haven, both for course-book purchases and their own academic interests. English professor Leslie Brisman said for many years, Book Haven was the best place to see the newest literary criticism and scholarly works.

But Brisman said he has absolutely committed to Labyrinth Books and has encouraged his colleagues to do the same.

“I think it is really a one-shot deal, and if Labyrinth doesn’t succeed in getting sufficient course-book orders for this fall, it may not succeed at all,” Brisman said. “I will very much miss Book Haven and sincerely hope Labyrinth Books continues its success.”

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