Independent Bookstore Day is Saturday, April 27. Go spend some cash.
Let’s be honest: It’s gross that we’ve had to drum up a make believe holiday like Indie Bookstore Dayto get people to turn out to their local bookseller, but here we are. Exercising power with your wallet, shopping local, yadda yadda yadda. We’ll not beat you over the head with the less-than-subtle reasoning about the day. Instead, let’s think of it as a celebration of everything you can’t get from an online retailer or a big-box mega-center.
While everyone’s delighted at the spike in the number of independent bookstores, it’s important not to take that success for granted. In fact, as NPR notes, part of independent bookstores’ ability to thrive is because Amazon was so effective at squeezing out the big-box retailers that were, in turn, squeezing independent booksellers out long before we started buying goods online. How these indies fare in coming years comes down to one thing: our purchasing behavior. Duh.
While that’s not really a surprise, it’s an important reminder that where you spend matters. Want another important reminder? Head down to your local B&N on Independent Bookstore Day (leave your wallet in the car, so you’re not tempted) and survey the store. If you haven’t visited one in a while, it may come as a shock that the big boxes aren’t stocked with as many books as they once were. This trend has been going on for years, but it’s never been quite as obvious as it is now. Floor space has been realigned, with novelties, games and other not-exactly-literary merchandise commanding a bigger footprint. What shelf space remains is focused on high-volume books: Instead of one copy of Graham Greene or Douglas Coupland favorites, they’ve gone all in on stock that moves, cramming multiple copies of sure-sell titles onto unused space.
That’s hardly the utopia of limitless stock big box retailers promised us.
Yes, smaller stores don’t have the capital to invest in large inventories, but they’ve been increasingly adroit at serving readerships that aren’t there looking to pick up the hot new Dan Brown thriller. Where major retailers look to snare the reader who picks up a few books each year, indies cater to us folk who are reading dozens of books a year. Because of that, they can afford to stock the titles that aren’t pandering to the masses.
Independent Bookstore Day – The Ramifications
While that means a more curated selection at your local independent bookstore (and better service from booksellers who take pride in steering readers to new discoveries), it also means that they’re natural allies for underground and independent publishing. It’s the local bookstore selling books to local avid readers that will take the chance on a weirdo publication. In many cases, they’re not getting the favorable pricing from big publishers that Amazon and other behemoths do, so they’re naturally aligned with independent publishing goals.
Want to find something weird? Looking for that book that’s going to blow your mind? Sick of wandering past endcaps filled with zombie apocalypse tripe? Head down to your local independent bookstore. We’ve long understood that music geeks flock to the independent record stores for the best selection and service. It’s time we make that a reality for readers and indie bookstores.