From The Writers Dig:
This past year and a half has been one of turmoil, noise and political chaos, rising to a level that most of us have never experienced. In our world of uncertainty and change, self-care is perhaps more important than ever. Amid an onslaught of 24-7 news and a seemingly increasingly unstable world, we need to find points of calm. I have found a major haven over the past few years in independent bookstores, and I wanted to talk a little bit about as to why I think they’re more important today than ever.
Sure, online retailers (and I’m sure we all have the “big one” in mind) can offer customers significantly lower prices and an exponentially greater book inventory. Yes, there’s also the convenience factor: Customers don’t need to leave home to buy a book; they can do so from the comfort of their own couch with just the click of a button. But it’s important to remember that the online retailers are e-commerce specialists, not booksellers. Booksellers are people – they are consummate bibliophiles who take joy in matching reader to writer. And that human component is an important part of the literary experience.
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Community: Independent bookstores are often fixtures in the communities that they serve, acting as everything from a safe space for kids to come to after school, to an enjoyable way for a group of friends to pass a Saturday afternoon. Indie bookstores also help to strengthen the economic base of the local community. In a 2015 “Dear Reader” post, Roxanne Coady—owner of R. J. Julia, an independent bookstore in Madison, CT—said, “For every $100 you spend in a locally owned store, $73 stays in the local economy, whereas $100 spent in national chains returns $43 to the local economy.” Not only do you get a book for those dollars you spend in local stores, but they stay in your community.
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Convening: The local bookstore offers a home to both authors and readers. It is a welcoming place to come together and to feel comfortable and at ease. It is a place for like-minded individuals to gather together and exchange ideas.
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Contact: Independent booksellers value engaging those who read, and this personal contact is critical for all of us. Booksellers focus on long-term relationships with customers, and they seek to enhance the direct customer experience through personalized and specialized services. Knowing the customer and supporting their individual interests and needs helps to ensure customer retention.
Link to the rest at The Writers Dig
PG says some independent bookstores are like the descriptions in the OP, but others, unfortunately, are not. He has no problem identifying several independent bookstores he has enjoyed visiting and would happily visit again. Unfortunately, none are nearby and PG’s present reading interests are far enough out of the mainstream that they require a large or very specialized bookstore to satisfy.
Additionally, most of the community/gathering elements described in the OP are available in locations other than bookstores.
When the PG’s go out to lunch, their most frequent destination is a small restaurant where they know and are known by many of the staff. One woman who works there regularly asks Mrs. PG about her latest book.
Of all the businesses adversely impacted by Amazon, PG feels the most sympathy for independent bookstores. Unfortunately, mortuaries are the only successful long-term retail businesses based on sympathy that come immediately to mind.