Writers 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.