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The Power of the Indie Bookstore

28 April 2017

From Literary Hub:

Book browsers and community-seekers rejoice: this Saturday, April 29, is Independent Bookstore Day. 470 indie bookstores across the country will be participating.

. . . .

Emily Temple: What are your first bookstore memories? Do you have a favorite bookstore from childhood?

Emma Straub: There were several great bookstores on the Upper West Side when I was a kid—there was Endicott, Eeyore’s, Shakespeare and Company. We went to all of them all the time, though in truth, Channel Video, the local video store, was the only place in the neighborhood that had a thing that I could crawl inside, and so that sort of won. Mostly when I think about Endicott, I think about one of the booksellers, who my father was friendly with, who was apparently covering his entire body in tattoos in hopes of becoming a human lampshade someday. Funny what sticks.

ET: What has been the best part about starting a bookstore—and what has been the hardest part?

ES: The most fun part has been ordering books. That has also been the hardest part. I so badly want the store to have a personality, but I also want to be mindful that my taste is not everyone’s. It’s a tricky thing! We shall see.

ET: Why do you think independent bookstores are still thriving in the era of Amazon? What makes them so special?

ES: I was thinking about this today, especially in regards to Independent Bookstore Day. What makes indie bookstores so special is that each one is totally unique. Even though we’re all ordering from the same publishers for the most part, each space is totally its own, and each point of view, as well. I could go to a dozen indie bookstores in a day. They are each a total kingdom. That’s why they’re thriving—they’re living, breathing creatures. You wouldn’t swap your cat for a robot, even though the cat sometimes eats your hair and then barfs on the rug. It’s the same thing. I would rather have an eccentric, fallible thing with a soul. Wouldn’t you?

Link to the rest at Literary Hub and thanks to Dave for the tip.


9 Comments to “The Power of the Indie Bookstore”

  1. I would rather have an eccentric, fallible thing with a soul. Wouldn’t you?

    No. I’d rather have a better than even chance of finding a book I want. A bookstore does not have to same place in my life that a cat would. A bookstore is a service.

    Straub is correct that a strength of indie bookstores is their individual character. The three bookstores in town I shop at all have character. The one I don’t is a big chain outlet. Even so, nowadays I only go into the bookstores when I’m passing by. I don’t make a special trip to look for a book. I no longer say to a friend as we’re sitting at home, “Hey, do you want to go to the bookstore?” Instead I’ll say as we pass by the store with nowhere particular to be immediately, “Hey, do you want to go in for a minute?”

    Straub also identified the weakness of the indie bookstore. She can’t stock everything, or even close to everything. That’s not a failing on her part. It’s just fact.

    I think location will be even more essential for indie bookstores in the future than it has been in the past. They will need low rent in high traffic areas.

  2. I’d take the robot over the cat any day (our’s had kittens last week.) I can take apart a robot and repogram the silly thing, doing that to a cat just makes a mess (and then you need a new cat and the programing never takes …)

    • Thanks so much for the reprogramming the cat picture in my head.

      • Hey, this one wags her tail! Sadly she also likes to take ‘friendly’ swipes at you when you stop petting her (and those dang claws are sharp!)

        • I hear you.

          The whiny petting whore likes to hide behind the funiture and jump out and swipe at me on the way out of the bathroom. No claws popped but he loves seeing me jump out of the way.

          Then again, he has a habit of rolling over in his sleep atop the kitty condo and drop flat on his back. His regal sister looks at him and practically rolls her eyes and looks at me like she’s saying; “Don’t look at me. We’re clearly not related.”

          They can be fun from time to time so I forgo the reprogramming.

  3. I’ll be very interested in seeing that space a year or two from now once she’s had an ongoing opportunity to compare her revenue with her rent.

    Remember, the store she had been working at succeeded because the owners owned the property, and closed when they decided to sell the property – not the store.

    • Free rent saves many a small business.
      That is why so many shopkeepers throughout history lived upstairs or in the back.

  4. The only bookstore I tend to go to these days is the used one in town. You really can’t beat five dollar hard covers. You have to hunt a little bit to make sure they’re decent, but it’s worth the effort. I agree with previous comments as well that I would not make a special trip. The fact that the stores on the way to baseball practice helps a lot.

  5. this Saturday, April 29, is Independent Bookstore Day.

    It’s also International Tabletop Day. I know because I have a new book coming out today.

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