Supporting Independent Booksellers

I read an interesting article today titled: What Are Independent Bookstores Really Good For? published on in May 2006. It might have been two years ago, but writer Tyler Cowen’s article is still relevant in 2008. He writes:

Ever since the rise of the book superstore in the 1990s, we have been flooded with lamentations for the rapidly disappearing independent booksellers—cool hang-outs where the staff knows something about literature, the owners select each title with care, and bearded patrons sit at crowded coffee tables, talking about Jack Kerouac or the latest translation of Tolstoy. Thanks to the indies, it is thought, high-quality but inaccessible books can slowly build their reputations through reader word-of-mouth and eventually take the literary world by storm.

He goes on to say that indie bookstores ‘help cultivate and nurture—the eccentric interests, the peculiar niches‘ and that it is these qualities which will go by the wayside ‘in the routinized world of the superstore.

This article caught my attention because I am guilty of not always supporting the Independent booksellers with my dollars. It is cheaper (and easier) to log into my Amazon account or to stop by at one of the big chains which often offer deep discounts. But I must admit, I feel better when I shop in the neighborhood bookstore that serves up not only great books but staff who recognize me and an atmosphere which makes me want to curl up with my next novel.

Indiebound is an organization that celebrates Independent booksellers. Their tag line reads:

IndieBound is a socially-conscious movement in support of independent businesses and shopping locally, starting with indie bookstores. It’s about raising awareness, it’s about reaching out, and it’s about taking pride in your community.

They give some great reasons to support the Indies including keeping your dollars in your community, creating local jobs, supporting diversity, and supporting the environment (through less packaging and transportation of goods).

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) provides the Indies Next List – which is ‘drawn from bookseller-recommended favorite handsells, epitomizes the heart and soul of passionate bookselling. Independent booksellers are and have always been discoverers of the next big thing, the next great read, the next bestseller, and the next undiscovered gem.

Here is what made the September list:

  1. In Hovering Flight, by Joyce Hinnefeld
  2. My Father’s Paradise: A Son’s Search for His Jewish Past in Kurdish Iraq, by Ariel Sabar
  3. America Eats! On the Road with the WPA, by Pat Willard
  4. The Good Thief, by Hannah Tinti
  5. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
  6. Fine Just The Way It Is: Wyoming Stories 3, by Annie Proulx
  7. Feather Man, by Rhyll McMaster
  8. Just Breathe, by Susan Wiggs
  9. Hurry Down Sunshine: A Memoir, by Michael Greenberg
  10. American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
  11. City of Refuge, by Tom Piazza
  12. Home, by Marilynne Robinson
  13. The Heretic’s Daughter, by Kathleen Kent (read my review)
  14. Songs for the Butcher’s Daughter, by Peter Manseau
  15. The Black Tower, by Louis Bayard
  16. Man in the Dark, by Paul Auster
  17. American Savior, by Roland Merullo
  18. Stalking Irish Madness: Searching for the Roots of My Family’s Schizophrenia, by Patrick Tracey
  19. Ritual, by Mo Hayder
  20. Sweeping Up Glass, by Carolyn Wall

To find an Independent Bookseller near you where you can buy one of these recommended titles, visit the ABA site under Find an ABA Member Bookstore.

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    • Trish on September 13, 2008 at 16:43

    I have a couple of those books on my radar and will probably read My Father’s Paradise after I finish my current book–really looking forward to it! Thanks for the list and links, Wendy. I think a lot of us are guilty of the trigger-happy finger when it comes to buying books (on Amazon, etc).

  1. In general terms I agree about the independent book store and what it can offer. The trouble is that my local one doesn’t. It is one of the least friendly places that I know and I get better book conversation in the nearest branch of Waterstones. Having said that, I do have a favourite independent shop but I have to make a special day’s journey to get there. It’s definitely worth the effort, but finding the day isn’t easy in a busy life. I believe our local store is looking for a buyer, but they have so little regular custom that there is no real goodwill to offer as an incentive. I suppose this means that they won’t sell it as a going concern and another independent will bite the dust.

    • Jeane on September 14, 2008 at 11:48

    I appreciate what you wrote about independent bookstores. I’ve been bemoaning the lack of them in my area, and how fast I’ve been seeing them disappear from my favorite towns. I try to support them in my own small way- by buying books, of course!

    • Wendy on September 14, 2008 at 13:49

    Trish: I have My Father’s Paradise, too – so I’ll look for your review!

    Ann: That is too bad about your local store – but, I think that is the exception, don’t you? I have had great luck with Independents…When I lived in the SF Bay Area there were many Independents that I frequented…great atmosphere and friendly staff and always something interesting happening. Since moving into rural Shasta County California, my choices are markedly diminished.

    Jeane: I hear you! My area is a little depleted in Independents (see what I wrote to Ann above), but when I travel, I love visiting the small bookstores and giving them my business.

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