Hope for Indie Bookstores?

I’m hearing stirrings and rumblings, far and wide, about ways to fight the constant death blows to indie bookstores.

There’s been a revival in community supported projects on several fronts, like green markets and CSA’s. And now, at Parnassus Books in big city Nashville and Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca, NY, people by the hundreds are buying shares to open – or keep alive – indie bookstores. I bumped into the notion on Utne Reader, which has a great video of a Colbert Report spot on indie bookstores, from an interview with Ann Patchett who started Parnassus. Read the NY Times article about what she’s doing here.

Then there’s the emergence of NYC storefront retailers, a few of them bookstores, as described in a Metrofocus Op-Ed, Occupy Manhattan Storefronts. It appears that chain stores of all kinds are losing ground, and small shops are gaining by connecting with their neighborhoods.  Booklovers Fight for Stores Uptown remarks, “Neighborhood bookstores offer a smaller selection of books targeted for a local audience. ‘You don’t get a Washington Heights section from Borders,’ said Veronica Liu, Word Up’s founder.” 

I think community interest in neighborhood indies is more than rebellion against (now defunct) Borders and (struggling?) Barnes and Noble, quelled by bloodthirsty Amazon. It’s also dismay, after removing the blinders, about what we’ve lost. A bit of guilt about our own passive complicity. And a few smart people who are taking it upon themselves to do something about the mess.

The other day I was eating breakfast with my writing group at a local village restaurant, and noticed a change in a storefront window across the street. Oh yeah, said my friend Judy. There’s a new bookstore coming to town.
She’s the mayor’s wife, so she ought to know. The occasion clearly called for strapping on my tap shoes, but in deference to fellow diners I let out a ladylike whoop. We turned to stare in open-mouthed wonder, then one by one we turned back to our pancakes and shared remembrances of the bookstores that failed to thrive in our charming downtown.

This time will be different. If our glorious new shop starts to go under, I’ll be pulling people in off the streets to sign up for shares.

This entry was posted in *Lois, On Bookstores, On Community by Lois Karlin. Bookmark the permalink.

About Lois Karlin

Lois Karlin writes fiction and blogs at Women of Mystery. She is the founding editor of a small publishing house, Glenmere Press. As Winged Books, she provides eBook and print-on-demand services. Lois is a professional writer who for two decades has published online documentation and web copy. She has worked as a writing instructor through the Orange County Council of Arts, published "The Understudy" in the Fresh Slices (Murder New York Style) anthology, She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.

5 thoughts on “Hope for Indie Bookstores?

  1. You are a lucky duck!! An indie bookstore!! Tea and good books for all!!!

  2. Oh, and I forgot to mention. Last November when I heard about Small Business Saturday–Saturday after Thanksgiving–I made a list of things I could buy in local shops and went out and bought them. Now Small Business Saturday has millions of followers on FB and reminds us to patronize our small businesses all year. I, for one, am much more aware. Buy cards in the card store not the drug store. Go to the indie pharmacy for otc meds., etc.

    And if it takes a bit of shoe leather walking from store to store–it is healthier for me.

  3. Hi Anita & Terrie . . . We live so far from big box stores that we tend to frequent our main street shops pretty regularly for stuff they can offer. Whatever the increased cost, it is offset by the savings in gas, as well as by bumping into people you know or would like to know. On the other hand, for items our shops don't offer, I tend to order online. This has become a habit for books. I'm hoping our new bookstore will have an e-commerce site with an easy way to place orders.

  4. The kind of bookstores I used to see actually make it were these tiny, genre-specific joints with a very well-defined audience. We had an awesome one in Austin that was sci-fi/fantasy and crime fiction. That's all they did, and they did it from the crummiest-looking, most worn-out first edition paperbacks of pulp novels to the latest and greatest signed Stephen Kings. It was a treasure trove where you really did just kind of wander and poke, where they had such a tiny space that books were piled everywhere. But that suited the people who wanted to read that kind of work.

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