Answer me this. Is there anything more uplifting, enjoyable, or magical than visiting an independent bookstore? Not much comes to my mind other than reading a book from an independent bookstore outside on a beautiful day! I’ll also be the first to admit that I love Amazon and totally rely on it for many things. However, I try to not use Amazon as my go-to source for book shopping and book discovery (I link out to books on Amazon on here frequently because, yes, it is easy. In real life, I’m usually buying my books in person at bookstores though.). I truly love our two local independent bookstores in downtown Charleston, Blue Bicycle Books and Buxton Books, and adore the experience of shopping at both of them. I’m probably in them (one or the other) about once a week. When I travel, I seek out local independent bookstores and always buy a book at them. It is a small but great way to support the community and learn about where I’m traveling to. So, I wanted to share my thoughts on why it’s important to support independent bookstores with y’all because it’s a business I hope will never ever die.
Why it’s Important to Support Independent Bookstores
Support for your Local Economy & Community
This is an obvious one! I’ve read that “For every $100 you spend in a locally owned store, $68 stays in the local economy, whereas $100 spent in national chains returns $43 to the local economy.” I’ve also read that up to $73 stays in local economies. Either way, the number is significant! You can put money into your local economy and you get a book to show for it when your money is spent at a bookstore… done and done.
Possibility for Discovery of New Books & Authors
Sure, when you shop on Amazon, you can see other books through Amazon’s auto-populated widgets titled things like “People who viewed this also viewed.” In my opinion, that keeps you confined within a small category of books that are widely read and viewed on Amazon. There are SO MANY books and authors out there but when you can’t browse them on displays or bookshelves, how do you really discover new reads and talents? Independent bookstores allow readers to get lost in the world of books and to discover so many stories.
The Happiest Customer Service
The customer service can’t be beat at independent bookstores. Individuals who work at bookstores are a wealth of knowledge because they read so much, do the buying for the bookstores, know authors, and keep tabs on new releases, classics, and underrated sleeper books. These people provide book reviews you can trust!
Insight into Local Community History
Independent bookstores almost always have a section dedicated to local community history and local authors. I’m always so fascinated by this section! For example, Mitchell’s Book Corner on Nantucket has a whole section about Nantucket that I love. You can often find antique books about local communities in these sections in bookstores don’t have a dedicated antique books section.
If Independent Bookstores Go Away, Your Favorite Authors Might To
That’s right! The household names like John Grisham won’t be affected if independent books stores die off but new authors and authors who haven’t appeared on the New York Times Bestseller List will suffer enormously. Booksellers at independent bookstores are who put such authors’ books into readers’ hands. Bookstores provide authors with the ability to be successful because booksellers talk about books and authors, create excitement about books people haven’t previously heard of, and hold events for authors.
Incredible Events & Programming
I think people often don’t realize how many events independent bookstores put on! Between Blue Bicycle Books and Buxton Books in Charleston, there are hundreds of events every year (I’m not kidding). Independent bookstores secure visits from big name authors on their book tours, organize author talks from tiny to well known authors, throw book signings, put on entire weekends and trips around a book or an author, and so on. Add in the Charleston Library Society and there are truly so many incredibly enriching literary experiences to be had in Charleston alone. I encourage you to look at the events calendar for your local bookstores or libraries because I guarantee that your mind will be blown.
Independent Bookstores Organize Books Clubs
In addition to literary events, independent bookstores often organize book clubs. They provide a great way to meet to new people in your community and a fantastic way to broaden your book horizons.
Independent Bookstores Give Back
Did you know that tons of independent bookstores give back and invest in local and national literacy programs? This honestly creates a better tomorrow because illiteracy is the biggest educational hurdle students in this country face.
Children’s Story Hours
Do I even need to ask? You’ve seen You’ve Got Mail, right? If for some crazy unknown reason you haven’t seen the movie, then watch it tonight. I rank it in my top five favorite movies because it’s pure magic. The scene when Meg Ryan reads to a room full of littles in her bookstore, The Shop Around The Corner, is just beautiful. So, yes, children’s story hours are reason enough to support local bookstores!
Used & Antique Books
Independent bookstores often have great sections of books for used books as well as antique books. There is so much to discover at a lot of different price points!
Things to Know When Book Shopping
Many Independent Bookstores Provide a Way to Buy E-Books
There’s something special about reading an actual book. However, I know how popular e-readers are. The great news is that many independent bookstores have a way for customers to buy e-books through their websites. While Kindles and the Kindle app only support books purchased on Amazon, most other e-reader platforms are compatible with independent bookstore websites. So, why not try downloading your next book through your favorite local bookstore’s website? Check out libro.fm to purchase audiobooks through your favorite independent bookstores.
You can Buy Books ONLINE and Still Support Independent Bookstores (aka an Amazon alternative)
I learned about Bookshop in January of this year and instantly loved the concept. Bookshop is relatively new so I’ll fill you in in case you aren’t familiar with the site… Bookshop is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community. It serves as an Amazon alternative for shopping for books online. Bookshop also has tons of great well-curated book recommendations to browse! If you’re curious about how Bookshop supports independent bookstores, you can read about it on the site’s about page.
Sales at Independent Bookstores are a Contributing Factor of Book Selections for the New York Times Best Seller List
The New York Times Best Seller List is the gold standard of book ratings. It is determined by a number of factors including book sales at independent bookstores across the country (it is not actually a 100% true reflection of the most sold books across the country). The independent bookstores whose numbers are used in creating the NY Times Best Seller List are a secret so you can’t be sure it is your local bookstore but it just might be!
Don’t Forget About Little Free Libraries
This post is really dedicated to independent bookstores but I also love Little Free Libraries. Unless I give or mail a book I’ve read to a friend or family member, I put all my read books in Little Free Libraries around Charleston. I sign and date all the books I’ve read so you just might spot one of my books around town!
I hope this post gave you a little inspiration to go visit your local independent bookstore! Especially during unsettling times like right now with Coronavirus, it’s important to support our local businesses who are undoubtedly struggling. For a look at what I’m reading, head here! xx