Keep Word Up in the community, run by the community, for the community.
The Word Up CSB (Community Supported Bookshop) is a bookshop member program modeled on neighborhood CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture), which help local farmers sustain their operations. CSB Members pay in advance and share in the risk and reward that a farmer faces in a season. CSA veggies usually tastes much better than supermarket veggies because it is fresh and local—and grown with love! The Word Up CSB also comprises upfront seasonal payment, the risk and reward, the fresh, the local, the love—but instead of tomatoes we provide you with BOOKS!
Word Up sprouted as a one-month-long project in June 2011, at a time when bookstores were closing all over the country. There had not been a general-interest, multi-language bookstore central to Northern Manhattan for several generations, so neighbors galvanized their energy and ideas to keep Word Up open, showing that this was becoming an important part of the neighborhood. In addition to spreading a love of literature and literacy with affordably distributed books, Word Up hosts events—readings, concerts, film screenings, art exhibits, theater productions, workshops—and has, within its first nine months, presented over 500 people onstage. Truly a neighborhood space, the staff is 100% volunteer-powered, mostly by residents of Washington Heights and Inwood. Rent, however, is not free.
A Basic Share is $20. When you join, you receive a hand-silkscreened tote bag, 6 wooden coins redeemable for used books, and special member-only opportunities like Book Harvests.
You can redeem your coins one at a time, or you can redeem them all at once. You can buy multiple CSBs, or they make great gifts for your book-loving family and friends! Most important, you will know that the money you commit to the Word Up CSB will help keep us in the neighborhood, and will help us stay community-run.
A School Share is $50 and is an option for any school or educational organization. Every student in your class gets a wooden nickel, and the teacher gets the tote bag. So this way, even if a used book is $5, the student can get it with his/her wooden nickel during the class visit, or even at a later time.
Q: Where would my money be going if I signed up for a CSB?
A: Money from CSB shares will be used for rent and associated operating expenses. We had a great time at our first Rent Party and hope to throw many more parties. but there are a lot of other expenses that go along with paying rent too. Did you know that, for our first six months, we did all we did without having phone or internet at the bookshop? Now we will take on such additional monthly expenses, and utilities, and more. But because we want to keep our book prices affordable and in line with the realities and needs of many of our neighbors, the profit margin on what we sell remains slim. By signing up for a CSB share and helping offset our rent and operating expenses, you pledge support for Word Up to stay in the neighborhood and to continue doing what it does best: circulate books and provide a gathering spot for the community.
In keeping with our declaration to support our local community, our financial institution of choice is the Neighborhood Trust Federal Credit Union, which serves residents, workers, and volunteers in Washington Heights.
Q: Why wooden coins? Why not a punch card or something?
A: First, wooden coins look cool. Second, their sturdiness (in relation to card stock) lends them to continuous recycling. We know that, in a lot of cases, customers will be redeeming their coins pretty quickly, and once they do, we can instantly use the coins for the next person to purchase a CSB. And those coins look pretty cool.
Q: Why don’t you just do a Kickstarter campaign?
A: There is no way that supporters can pledge to a Kickstarter campaign without going through Amazon Payments. According to Kickstarter, it is the only credit-card processing site that can handle the all-or-nothing pledge function that Kickstarter uses. After all that Amazon has done to damage the bookselling and publishing industries, we would rather not send all our well-wishers to sign up for accounts there, or provide a choice opportunity to Amazon to take a cut of whatever we gain in an online campaign.
Perhaps more importantly, much of Word Up’s success has been predicated on its existence as a physical space. We didn’t build our audience online; we built it by being a live presence in our very populated neighborhood. So we wanted to start building our financial base through this in-person, neighborly avenue at first, though it isn’t beyond us to do an online campaign in the future.