If you missed my interview with Celeste Ng over at Book Riot, maybe you're unaware that it's Independent Bookstore Day today. I mean, I guess you could still know that it's Independent Bookstore Day today without reading this Celeste Ng interview, but I wanted to start this blog post with a shameless plug, so roll with me here, okay? Okay.
So where was I? Oh yes. The last Saturday of April is always Independent Bookstore Day, which has got me thinking about what I love about independent bookstores and why they're so freaking awesome. So here is my informal ode to my favorite indie bookstores (featured above is Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA, btw--more bookstore shout outs to follow).
1. A Sense of Community - Independent Bookstores connect with the community more than your average big box store, which is naturally going to have less of a stake in the community than a local-run shop. Just look at two of our previous Featured Bookstores of the month, Avid Bookshop in Athens (pictured above) and Little Shop of Stories in Decatur (pictured below). Both stores have community book clubs, events, signings, and Little Shop of Stories specializes in summer camps and other programs for children. These shops are more than just places to pick up books, they're a means of connecting with the community.
2. Friendly Booksellers - Look, I am speaking from experience. I used to work at a Borders. And while everyone I worked with was great and we weren't bad people, let me tell you. We were not treated especially well and we were not paid well. All of this lowers morale. All of this leads to a less than superb experience with employers at these big box booksellers. Sure, they'll help you find that book you're looking for, but a lot of them are dead inside. It's not their fault. I blame the corporate system that fuels this kind of zombie employee mentality. For more on this, please check out our podcast episode about Horrorstör, a horror novel by my one of my personal faves, Grady Hendrix (yes, I just doubled down on the shameless plugs. I'm feeling lucky).
But none of this is the case at your local bookshop. These people are passionate about working there. They're all like Meg Ryan in You've Got Mail pre-Tom Hanks coming in and destroying everything. Except better. Like Meg Ryan 4.0 for the 21st Century. They're excited about books and want to talk to you about them. It's great. If you go to the same bookstore a lot, they'll remember you and have recommendations for you. You guys might even follow each other on Instagram one day and like each other's bookstagram posts. It will be the book friendship you always wanted.
3. I spend WAY TOO MUCH MONEY at indie bookstores. I know what you're thinking. How could this possible be a good thing? Because it is. There.
Okay, fine. I'll say more. Sure, one of the complaints about independent bookstores (or any indie store for that matter) is that you're often paying more for the books than you would have to at, say, Amazon. Obviously one of the biggest arguments is that you're doing your part to support local business by shopping local, which helps the economy and all of that. There are millions of articles online about the importance of shopping local. You should check them out, and yes, if feeling like a better person is enough to make you spend the extra money, then do it.
But here's the other thing. Shopping at local indie stores doesn't just help local business. It helps you. When I go into a local bookshop, I am inundated with new titles that are exciting to me, titles that I wouldn't have thought to look up online, titles that the Amazon algorithm didn't think to recommend to me. These are books recommended by real people in a real store. Shopping and independent bookstores leads me to buying more exciting books, which betters my reading life. That is something you can't put a price on, if you're a book-lover.
4. Special Independent Bookstore Day Events - The day is young. It's not too late to head over to your local independent bookstore to see what they've got going on for Independent Bookstore Day. Check out this map of EVERY independent store participating in Independent Bookstore Day this year. Many stores are doing giveaways of exclusive items you can only get in-store today.
If you're reading this after Saturday, there's still plenty your local bookstore has to offer. And it's never too early to start planning for how you're going to spend Independent Bookstore Day next year!
P.S. If you've missed them, here are our featured bookstore posts so far.