Independent Bookstores – Where the Booklovers Go

independent bookstore day 2018Writers read. It is one of the defining characteristics of writers that we love books. Love ’em. Can’t get enough. And those of us over a certain age have, in our lifetimes, witnessed a  total transformation of how books arrive in the hands of happy readers. It looked bad there for a while (for those of us who love bookstores), but it turns out independent bookstores are on the uptick.

The First Hit

In case you weren’t paying attention, neighborhood bookstores were hit pretty hard when big box stores (Barnes & Nobles, Borders) came onto the scene in the  early ’90s. Then they suffered again when (in the late ’90s) when Amazon exploded onto the scene. Between 1995 and 2000 our country lost 40% of its indie bookstores. Dang.

Paper is Dead (or Maybe Not)

But then Kindle came along (in 2007) and crushed the big box stores. Just left them in tatters. Everyone said “paper is dead.” But they were wrong. What happened was a bifurcation of book sales.

On the one hand you have Amazon, where you go if you just want something fast and cheap.

On the other hand, you have your local bookstore, where you go if you want to immerse yourself in books and book culture.

What a Bookstore Is

It turns out that there is a market for the experience of a bookstore (those of us who love books aren’t surprised) and the demise of the big box stores left a hole for the indies to grow into.

Since 2009, there’s been a 40% uptick in the number of indie bookstores. This guy from Harvard, Ryan Raffaelli, recently did a study of how that was possible and what he outlines in his project summary are three things: community, curation, and convening. In short, indie bookstores know their communities, they work hard to offer the kinds of books their customers want, and they host book signings and book clubs to bring people together around books.

Indie Bookstore Day

This Saturday is Indie Bookstore Day, and indie bookstores across the country are hosting events to celebrate the fact that a bookstore is more than just a place to get a book.

To join the celebration, find the store nearest to you and make a date to go wander the isles just for the fun of it. Buy a book, or three (or, you know, more). Check out their calendar of upcoming events. Seriously, indie bookstores are the best. If you haven’t been to one in a while. It’s time you did. Have fun.

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4 Responses to Independent Bookstores – Where the Booklovers Go

  1. Jason Bougger April 29, 2018 at 8:10 am #

    It seems like in my state the independent bookstores are hit and miss. Some are what one might expect. Others feel no different than B&N; selling the same bestsellers, etc. But I sure do miss the browsing options we used to have, with Borders, the mall bookstores, used bookstores, and independent bookstores.

    Sure buying online is convenient, but it was always so much fun picking a random book off the shelf and buying it if its cover looked cool.

    • April May 8, 2018 at 5:58 pm #

      Agreed. I think we’re really lucky here in LA to have some great bookstores. Where are you? Maybe other readers could suggest some favorites?

  2. Bryan Fagan April 25, 2018 at 6:20 am #

    My town, Eugene, Oregon, loves Indie bookstores. We have several and they have thrived for years. I am not surprised that they have.

    You say hi to the owner when you walk in. They remember your name and the books you like. There is something about them that feels like home and that’s why they succeed.

    • April May 8, 2018 at 5:59 pm #

      I love my local bookstore. Like, so much that I keep thinking I might apply for a job, but then I worry that working there would ruin it for me. For now, I’ll settle for just enjoying the place.

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