Why Independent Bookstores Are Important Parts of Our Communities— And How to Support Them!

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are Affiliate Links. That means if you click on a link and purchase an item, we receive an affiliate commission at no cost to you. All opinions remain our own. We are affiliated with Bookshop.org to help support Indie Bookshops. Click here to learn more about our decision!

Do you remember that magic when you first walked into an independent bookstore packed to the brim with books? The world felt like it was right there at your feet, just waiting for you to figure out its secrets.

Bookstores Are My Important Places

Freshman year of college was the first time I walked into an indie bookstore (now closed at the time of writing 😞

As a kid, I spent many hours hanging out at our local library or at big box bookstores with my friends. It felt like being back to the familiar for just a little while. I spent hours browsing books between classes and scrounging money to buy books at every break.

Moving to a new city after college without anyone that I knew saw me searching out the familiar. I found Fountain Bookstore in Richmond, VA. Walking into a hip bookstore on the weekend, browsing the shelves, hiding in a corner and reading every employee recommendation, it helped me feel like I had a found my place again. 

Whenever I travel to a new place, finding a bookstore has always been on my list of Important Places just like the nearest grocery store or gym. When on holiday, indie bookstores rank as tourist sites just as high up as major landmarks

I’ve had the pleasure of exploring Powell’s Books in Portland. I’ve explored London through every tiny, historic shop. I’ve wandered the splendor that is the El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina and I’ve made the pilgrimage to what is arguably the indie bookstore mecca itself… The Strand in NYC.

El Ateneo in Buenos Aires
El Ateneo Grand Splendid

Every time that I set foot in an Indie Bookstore it remind me so much of what I love about them. There’s an electric current that runs through bookstores, one of excitement, of finding the next gem for you to enjoy. You feel like an intrepid explorer on the hunt for treasure. I’ve found some of my best friends at bookstore events being surrounded by other bookworms.

Why Should You Shop At Independent Bookstores?

Apart from the feelings that arise in me personally when I find a new Indie Bookstore to explore (giddy childlike excitement), there’s a lot of other reasons to embrace small, locally owned businesses like Indie’s.

When you spend $100 at a locally owned business, $67 of that stays in your community. Compare that to buying online without any sales tax collected, not one penny stays in your local community.  Local businesses create jobs for your neighbors, and local taxes ensure a reinvestment in your community.  

Buying from a local Indie bookstore also benefits the environment. Buying local could mean less packaging, it allows for less transportation, and has an overall smaller carbon footprint.

Independent Bookstores are Vital

Indie Bookshops Create Community

Local retailers also allow us to build a community. Local business owners are our friends and neighbors. If you support them, they’ll support you. As evidenced by the fact that local business donate to charities at twice the rate of national chains. 

I can definitely attest to this. I spent time in a lot of extra curricular activities in high school and on multiple occasions had to gather donations for one good cause or another. I would do the rounds and local businesses were incredibly supportive and would happily write checks to donate, often on the spot.

There’s also the community that independent bookstores are able to create within the store itself. Indie’s often host community events, support local authors, and support local artists. Many independents curate activities for families in the community via children’s reading hours or similar activities. Often independent bookstores become a place to gather via coffee shops or wine bars. 

Overall, independent bookstores add depth and warmth to a community.

How Can You Help Support Independent Bookstores?

COVID-19 has wrecked havoc on many of our small businesses in our communities from restaurants to gift shops to hardware stores. It feels like the only shops that are doing well right now are large, big box retailers like Target or Walmart, and in my opinion, they don’t add the same vibrance to a my community.

It is being reported that book sales are up this year, however those sales remain largely online with huge retailers. The American Booksellers Association said that more than one independent bookstore has closed every week since the pandemic began.

The 2020 Holiday season is going to make it or break it for many of our Independent Bookstores and other small businesses in our communities. An added hurdle is that cold weather is going to limit outdoor shopping and other creative avenues retailers have come up with to remain open over the summer.  

Even before COVID, 55% of small businesses report that the holiday season depends whether or not they make a profit each year.

According the American Booksellers Association, 20% of Independent Bookstores are in danger of permanently closing this holiday season.

Make a commitment to #shopsmall and #buylocal this holiday season.  

Steps You Can Take Right Now:

  • Shop this holiday season from your local Indie Bookstore. If you don’t know if there is one around you, you can search here. Many stores right now are either accepting orders online and/or having orders ready for pickup.
  • Plan on shopping for the holidays early this year. With COVID still delaying our mail, it is going to be prudent to shop and ship early this year. Keep an eye out in a week or two for our shopping picks!
IndieBound.org I American Booksellers Association bookweb.org
  • Now that you found your new favorite shop,  follow your independent bookstores on social media. You can find out COVID restrictions, sales, updated shopping hours, and MORE!
  • If you don’t have a local bookshop, order your books online through Bookshop.org. Most indie bookstores (including us! shameless plug) have online bookshops through bookshop.org and almost all of the profits go right back to the store. Even if you don’t shop through a specific bookshop, Bookshop.org pools together most of the profit margin and distributes it equally with indie bookstores around the country. Over 7 MILLION Dollars has already been raised.
  • Listen to audiobooks through Libro.fm. Libro is  similar to Audible, but the profits are spilt with an independent bookstore of your choice. You can even gift a membership to your loved ones! Scroll through the list to find the bookstore closet to you.

How are you planning to shop this holiday season?

-Anne, Alice & Jane

Leave a Comment