Your local authors want you to know how important local independent (“indie”) bookstores are to the book-selling industry, the books worthy of a wide audience, and the authors who write them. And no less important are their positive impact on the local economy and their cultural impact on the neighborhoods they serve.
The plight of the indie bookstore burst onto the big screen in 1998 with the movie “You’ve Got Mail” in which Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks developed an online romance without realizing they were bookstore rivals: she, the owner of an independent boutique bookstore in New York City and he, the owner of a chain of bookstores that had opened a branch across the street from hers. The contrast is real.
Independent bookstores face significant headwinds in competing with Amazon and other online sellers, and often it’s impossible for them to compete on price alone. The good ones, however, have managed to provide a value far beyond the price point of their books.
Why your local independent bookstores are worth supporting:
- They are often the cornerstone of a community that values books and learning, and they reflect the core values of that community.
- They are a safe gathering place for patrons of all ages.
- They host book clubs, author signings, and author events.
- They support new and local authors.
- They are a creative hub that helps ensure knowledge and appreciation of literature.
- They ensure diversity and democratization of literature as an art form.
- They encourage their patrons to expand their literary choices and read new things, unlike the online algorithms that steer us to the familiar.
- They contribute to a vibrant literary scene in their town or neighborhood.
- These booksellers are readers themselves and they understand the magical relationship between a reader and a good book.
- Their profits are much more likely to stay in the community.
- They represent a place of knowledge-sharing and exchange—the flow of ideas.
- They offer a much more personal shopping experience than online stores.
- For authors, the independent bookseller who knows our book is much more likely to get it into the hands of its perfect reader.
My area author friends and I have been struck by the warmth and support of Christine Patrick and her staff at The Winchester Book Gallery on the downtown mall in Winchester, VA. They have already hosted some of us for a book signing, and the invitation is open to come back as our books get published. As the publishing industry itself is in flux with many companies merging or going out of business—and fly-by-night publishers that prey on authors desperate enough to get published if they fork over lots of money—a knowledgeable bookseller in your community is a boon to readers who rely on them to stock quality books from reputable publishers.
Online ways to support indie bookstores
Besides walking into an actual bookstore or using their own website’s online ordering, there are two other online ways to support independent bookstores. One is called Bookshop, and it’s the one I used to create The Heartspoken Bookshop on this website. It allows me to customize my lists by themes I write about and feature books I love. Profits support me as a writer and also support independent bookstores. The other, for audiobooks, is Libro.fm. When you sign up with them, you are given the option of identifying a specific independent bookstore to get a little piece of the profit. Their blog is chock full of recommended reading lists for every readerly type.
Let’s Celebrate Indie Bookstore Day
The last Saturday in April is Indie Bookstore Day. Won’t you help me celebrate by finding and visiting your local bookstore? Take the time to poke around and get familiar with what they offer. Chat with the staff about what you like to read and find out what they recommend. Enjoy the camaraderie of kindred spirits and help secure the vital role these special places of business offer us.
AFTERWORD (added later): I enjoyed this article by one of my favorite authors, Ryan Holiday, called “Opening a Small-Town Bookstore During the Pandemic Was the Craziest Thing We Ever Did.” He totally confirmed many of the points in my article and made me grateful that people like him are willing to face the obstacles of opening and running an independent bookstore. I can’t wait to get back to that part of Texas and visit his store in Bastrop, TX, about 30 miles southeast of Austin.
My own book called HEARTSPOKEN: How to write notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire was published July 15, 2022. If you’re on my email list, you’ll be the first to get tips, drawings, giveaways, and notifications. CLICK HERE or use the form below to get on the list and also get a free chapter. And here is a link to my book signing events, many in independent bookstores:
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