After creating my summer reading list, I headed over to Barnes and Noble to purchase a few books. And much to my dismay, they didn’t have any of the books I listed. I asked a bookseller to check the computer to see if they had How to be Alone by Jonathan Franzen. Supposedly they had one copy, but the bookseller and I couldn’t find it. I ended up having to order it. I left the bookstore empty-handed and sad.
Next to the shoe department, which by the way I never leave empty-handed, bookstores are my favorite place to shop. I love the smell of new paper and the bright colors of the book jackets. If left alone, I can spend hours just perusing the shelves. It isn’t usual for me to come out with tons of books I didn’t even know I wanted.
Unfortunately, Barnes and Noble no longer qualifies as a bookstore to me. The first thing you see when you hit the door is the Nook display. They are much more interested in selling the Nook than good old fashion books. And the books they do offer seem to focus on what’s new or what’s popular. I know they have to make money and that e-readers are a hot commodity, but I refuse to jump on the bandwagon.
Books are so much more than words on a page. I need to feel the texture and weight of the paper between my fingertips. I need to hear the slight crack of the binding as I open it. I need to be drawn to the shelf by an interesting cover. I need a real bookstore.
As I walked out of Barnes and Noble, feeling like I had just lost my best friend, I decided to write a tribute blog to our past relationship and call it “The Death of the Bookstore”. I planned to work on it last week while I toured colleges with my daughter.
But after a wonderful tour of the University of Michigan (No bias, of course), I spied an independent bookstore on the way to the car. I dragged my daughter and her friend over to take a look.
I was in heaven.
I wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon searching the shelves for the perfect book. A few eye rolls and barely audible sighs let me know there was no way I was going to be able to shop and peace, so I quickly grabbed two books off the shelf.
As I paid for my purchases, it occurred to me that the bookstore was far from dead. Independent booksellers (or indies as they call themselves) still believed in the power of the printed word. But they need our support. So here are 7 reasons to be indie bound:
- Indies carry books on a variety of topics that you may not find in a chain bookstore. They carry the popular books found in the big box stores as well as lesser known authors and eclectic interest. I found a book at the indie in Ann Arbor about the history of women at the University of Michigan. The university was one of the first large institutions to admit women in 1870 and the book examined the results of what was called “The Dangerous Experiment.”
- Indies host monthly author events. Anderson Bookshop in Naperville, IL (one of my favorite places) is hosting ten different author reading and book signing this month alone. These events give you an intimate setting in which to meet the authors and to hear what they have to say about their books.
- Indies celebrate writing and writers. They carry books by local authors. They also host critiques groups and writing workshops.
- When you spend money an independent bookstore the money stays in your community. Indies are locally owned and operated. When you support them, more of your money is funneled back into the community. There’s a whole campaign called the 3/50 project which ask consumers to frequent three brick and mortar local businesses that they don’t want to see disappear and to spend $50 a month.
- Booksellers at independent bookstores are willing to spend more time with you. They freely share their personal favorites and will point you to another staff person if they aren’t familiar with a particular book. They are professionals readers and general work at the bookstore because they care about books.
- Indies have big comfortable chairs to read in. They want you to stay awhile. I’ve visited Indies where there is free coffee and cookies on the counter. The atmosphere is just more homey and laid back. I found a cute bookshop called Fox-Tale Bookshoppe in Woodstock, Georgia. The decor was so cute that I immediately wanted to grab a book and curl up in one of their chairs.
- Some Indies will even buy your used books. It is the perfect way to recycle and trim a little off of your book bill.
What are some other good reasons to go Indie Bound?
It’s up book lovers to support our local independent bookstores if we want them to be around in the future. Visit indiebound.org to find local bookstores in your area. Be sure to check out their Indies Next List for recommendations and new releases.
- Save the Bookstores Day (suebe.wordpress.com)
- Top Five Ponderings on Save the Bookstore Day (teacherwriter.net)
- Harvard Book Store offers proof independent bookstores can survive digital age (teleread.com)