With the convenience of Amazon, bookstores and other retailers often struggle when it comes to book sales in comparison to the online behemoth. However, brick and mortar bookstores aren't quite a thing of the past. Why? Longtime authors and writers still shop at and promote independent bookstores.
I remember the first time I walked into an independent bookstore. It was just after I started college when I visited the famed Village Books not far from my university campus. Not only was I awed by the three levels of books and novelty items, but I was charmed by the family-like environment. I could spend hours in the store and never feel unwelcome.
Many large corporations want to take over the independent bookstore market, but here are 11 reasons why we can't let that happen and why you should shop at independent bookstores.
1. Supports local small business
While there are massive independent bookstores that may feel like chains (looking at you Powell's Books), all independent bookstores are locally owned and oftentimes by the same family who started the business. All independent bookstores become a staple in their community and give back to it by hosting community events, publishing and promoting local authors, partnering with local schools to promote reading and writing, etc. The list is endless!
2. Knowledgeable staff
While any bookstore you walk into should have a knowledgeable and well-read staff, independent bookstores operate on another level. Every employee carries a deep passion and love for books that overflows onto you. They can help you find the perfect book for anyone in your life and it's likely they have heard of that obscure book you can't find anywhere else.
3. Supports local writers and artists
Nearly all independent bookstores — both big and small — host book clubs, writer's groups, artist guilds. You'll meet some awesome people while also getting the support you need as a reader, writer, or artist. Some even host open mic nights or similar events for musicians. If you want to be a part of the local art scene, your local independent bookstore might be just the place to start.
4. Connection between local authors and the community
Unless you have the likes of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling living within your locale, it's unlikely many people know or can name local writers (and they definitely exist!) However, one place you can meet and get to know your local authors is an independent bookstore. Not only is the bookstore more than likely uber-supportive of said local author, but don't be surprised to see local author events, or to just run into them trolling through the shelves.
5. More personal
While you'll receive the typical customer service experience at an independent bookstore, you'll also be surrounded by a plethora of book recommendations made by the employees themselves. Cute displays and unique groups. Looking for books with blue covers or YA steampunk, it's likely there will be a quirky display for it sometime throughout the year. And, even if there's not, the friendly bookstore employees know exactly where your favorite book lies.
6. Family friendly
Books are something we never outgrow and therefore, independent bookstores must cater to all ages. From grandmas to kindergartners to blue-collar workers to political activists, there will be events, displays, and books for them all.
7. Hosts literary events
Like mentioned above, independent bookstores serve as a haven for the local authors and art community. However, independent bookstores also bring in authors from all across the world and you'd be surprised the big names you'll see on their events calendar. My local independent has brought in YA authors like John Green to science writers like Jane Goodall.
8. Can order literally any book
Much like the aforementioned Amazon, an independent bookstore can order pretty much any book that isn't rare or completely out of print (although you'd be surprised what they can find). Sure, you might have to wait a couple extra days and might have to go back into the bookstore to pick it up, but you can do so knowing you've supported the local community and author in the best way possible.
9. Author friendly
Time to get technical. While independent bookstores provide all the perks I've listed so far, authors love them for another reason. Independent bookstores provide the best royalties and promotional opportunities versus any other book-selling platform, market, or store. If you love an author, the best way to support them is to buy indie!
10. Pet friendly
Many local independent bookstores are pet-friendly and encourage shoppers to bring in their furbabies. While, obviously, the pets must not be disruptive, it's not common to find a public business where pets are allowed.
11. Create community
As you can probably tell from all the reasons above, independent bookstores are an integral part of the community they exist in. They foster artists and writers, support the next generation of readers and writers, and help bring opportunity to the community. Shopping indie is a small way you can support your community and the writers and artists you love.
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