On The Books: A Graphic Tale of Working Woes at NYC's Strand Bookstore

On The Books: A Graphic Tale of Working Woes at NYC's Strand Bookstore

by Greg Farrell


Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for delivery by Friday, April 23


A David and Goliath story, On The Books is the first-hand comic strip account of the labor struggle at NYC’s legendary Strand bookstore in the summer of 2012. Told by Greg Farrell—an employee of the store who interviewed numerous other members of the staff—the book examines the motives and actions of those involved, including the store, the staff, the union local, and the people of New York City. Through interstitial comic portraits Farrell gives voice to his comrades, who often share a nuance of the story that would have otherwise gone overlooked and provide a depth of opinion and fairness to accompany Farrell’s often very personal interpretation of events. In ten short chapters the book explores at once the inner workings of our national retail environment, the struggle to exist within it as a young working person, the current state of the book trade, and the impact of the economic recession on all of these factors.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781621060109
Publisher: Microcosm Publishing
Publication date: 08/01/2014
Series: Comix Journalism Series
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range: 15 - 18 Years

About the Author

Greg Farrell is a cartoonist and rapper whose other works include the comics Attaboy, Brendon: A Coming of Age Story, Going Rate, and the illustrated prison diary of Ho Chi Minh. He works at Strand bookstore. He lives in Brooklyn.

Read an Excerpt



A Manhattan institution. Eighteen miles of books and growing. Fiction, history, philosophy — an entire floor of art-related materials, and the famous halfprice review section.

The only thing missing is a coffee shop!

Tom Verliane, Richard Hell, Patti Smith, and countless other New York bohemians (they call us hipsters now) have shuffled these stacks.

Have you seen Tom?!

He's soloing in the break room.

People are drawn to these books because it means more to traffic in books, to be among books, than to sell dental floss in one of the city's numerous pharmacies, for example.

May be not to this guy

At first, what distinguishes these jobs may not be apparent. Retail is retail.

Low hourly wages, menial tasks, petty management, and obnoxious customers are all par for course in retail.

$8.00!? Well, then I'll just go on Amazon!

$4.00?! Well, then I'll just go to wall-greens!

But the Strand is one of a dwindling number of shops in NYC with a unionized work force.

Strand Employees others (everything's relative)

UAW Local 2179:2,400 members strong, 152 of whom are workers at the Strand Book Store, the Local's largest constituency.

The union protects our right as workers. It ensures fair wages, benefits, health care, and prevents us from being fired without cause.

No forting on the sales floor! You're F:-

Hold it right there buster.

The Strand also employs about 30 non-union workers as managers, many of whom have been promoted from within.

We'd like to give you slightly more many and markedly more responsibility whilst stripping you of your job security.


Recently, outside hires have been commonplace, as the closure of Borders has left many experienced booksellers unemployed.

I blame the economy, and the nook.

This hiring practice has been seen by some as an effort to mitigate the strength of the union and decrease the store's reliance on its members.

Ya, we got this.

I have worked at the store since August 2007. In August 2008, the union contract under which I was hired had reached the end of its previously negotiated three year duration.

Don't worry. It happens every three years or so.

A new contract was proposed by the owners, with long-term disadvantages to the workers. One major contention was rising health care contributions increasing at a fixed rate, annually.

Don't worry, I'm covered

Being a relative newcomer and uncertain of my permanence there. I opted for the short term again and voted yes to the contract (now with $50 signing bonus) despite the urgings of my more experienced colleagues.

Are you serious, Dogg?

I don't care. I'm be a famous Papper by then

The votes were split. A first. according to our union President, and a sign of growing disatisfaction in our ranks.

"If you don't have the power to count the votes, you don't have the power to win." -Ed Mann USWA

"Yes" "No"

"hanging "lads"

A revote was taken and the new contract was approved.

Idiot. I got kids.

Sing It, with very few responsibilities

Three years later, I'm still here. The Strand is still here. E-readers are here. Borders is gone, along with a sizable portion of Barnes and Noble.


Excerpted from "On The Books"
by .
Copyright © 2014 Greg Farrell.
Excerpted by permission of Microcosm Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Customer Reviews