It's old news that chain stores and web commerce have cut into the trade of independent book retailers, but not everyone doubts the sector's enduring viability. “People want to be able to touch and feel and see books,” says Cynthia Conigliaro, owner of ArchiviaBooks, which opened Nov. 1 at 993 Lexington Ave. on Manhattan's Upper East Side.

The store, with 3,000 contemporary titles on architecture, fine arts, interiors, gardens, and fashion, is a larger and more architecture- conscious incarnation of Conigliaro's previous bookstore, Archivia: The Decorative Arts Book Shop, which was open from 1991 to 2001 on Madison Ave. (Conigliaro and her then business partner, Joan Gers, opted to sell that store at the end of their lease.)

Art bookstores in New York have a high turnover rate: In one telling index, only nine of the city's 17 non-institution-run stores that were profiled in a 1988 New York Times article were in business 19 years later. And New York isn't the only city where such bookstores are suffering. In October, Washington, D.C.'s beloved Franz Bader shut its doors after a 54-year run, a victim of rising downtown rents in the nation's capital.

But Conigliaro is undeterred, believing that she can offer customers a more personal level of curatorial reference. “The pendulum is swinging back to bookstores,” she says. “We are a visual resource center for research and inspiration.”