The Novel Experience to close
April 5, 2011
In 1989, a bibliophile in San Luis Obispo could enjoy any number of local, independently-owned bookstores downtown: Phoenix, Leon’s, Norwood’s, Gaby’s, Bookland, and the mighty Earthling (where Natural Cafe stands today). Plus Mrs. Nybak, wife of painter Arne Nybak, had an antiquarian book consulting business she named The Novel Experience over in a tiny office on Marsh Street.
Today only Phoenix remains. Jim Hill, owner of The Novel Experience, has decided to close the downtown Higuera Street store by the end of the month. Hill and his wife Christine Nybak Hill bought the old Bookland in 1992 and renamed it The Novel Experience in honor of Christine’s mother.
Credit Jim Hill for trying. He had to fight off Barnes & Noble. Then Borders. He had to deal with high downtown rent. Then earthquake retrofitting. Christine eventually stepped away from the store to pursue work with Alzheimer’s patients. Jim moved into a cheaper location down the street in 2004, but even that did not help in the long run.
One thing Hill couldn’t control was the bottom line of publishing. As he has been telling the regular customers who continue to wander in, the numbers just don’t pencil out anymore. People are not buying books as much. Kindle and e-books are the new thing. Hill tried to find a buyer, but no one appears interested in buying a bookstore in 2011.
Closing is set for April 30th. Good bargains on books can be found until then.