How many local bookstores have you been to around where you live? A quick Google search or a peek at Yelp should show you where they are (if you haven't already found them), and they are usually well worth checking out. So many of us turn to Amazon or other online retail giants to get our books. And it works! The website giants are fast, cheap, and efficient, but there are some very good reasons to quit clicking "add to cart" and start checking out bookstores in your neighborhood.
Patronizing local bookstores isn't just about you and your books. I'd much rather spend an extra dollar or two, or have to hunt around for a little bit for a title to ensure that time and money goes into my local economy and supports the vibrancy of my community. I do not want to live in a world where a physical bookstore isn't accessible to me, or my neighbors, or to my child.
How many of us have fond memories of wandering bookstores and picking up whats interesting to us on a whim, before the internet had "opinions" on any books, and all we had to rely on was our own judgement? Bookstores give you a chance to discover something new and get lost in a lovely, comforting labyrinth of books that an online experience simply can't match. My local bookstores are cozy, often have a cat or two wandering around, and have excellent bookish people running the show and making great recommendations. You're not just shopping for you, you're creating an experience, interacting with your community, and supporting your local economy all in one enjoyable fell swoop.
There are a few key reasons why supporting indie bookstores is such an important act.
1. Community - The power of local communities, thankfully is rising. We are seeing more chain stores and restaurants struggling, locavore movements catching on with Farmer's Markets, and locally owned businesses popping up more and more. Local everything is becoming "cool": just think about headlines recently announcing that Starbucks is losing power in the stock market as people turn to Indie roasters and local cafe's. The tide is turning, my friends, and it's turning because the experience of local business is so personal and excellent in the face of uncaring internet retailers. Plus, bookstores provide a space to host bookclubs, meet authors, and mingle with your neighbors with a shared love of delicious smelling pages and a good story. Who doesn't want to hang out with like minded people and enjoy the process of choosing books? It's half the fun of reading!
2. Supporting Local Business - Spending your dollars close to home in the single greatest thing you can do to directly improve your own life. When you buy local, that paycheck you just blew on a stack of new novels is being put right back into the place you live and shop and work and raise your own family, which is so important. It makes life where you live more varied, provides more resources, and affects your life in a directly positive way when income and spending flows around your community instead of to a far off retail giant. Plus, the bookstore owner you just chatted with and gave you that great recommendation can put food on the table, pay for swim lessons for their kids, and give back to the community around them, instead of having your money lining the pockets of an already extremely wealthy CEO vacationing in the Hamptons.
3. Personal Connection - Your local bookstore probably hosts a variety of events to enrich your community. My favorite shop here in Tacoma is a popular gathering place for several book clubs, and provides a space for readers to connect with like minded people in their communities and forge friendships over a love of reading. Going through life without a "tribe" is hard, and local bookstores can facilitate you meeting yours. They are also a reprieve from clicking through a thousand titles on Amazon, aimless and unsure of what to read next, as many of them provide bookseller's personal recommendations and the employees are usually all too happy to talk books and make tailored recommendations for you. The curation of local bookstores also means they showcase a selection of books you WANT to read vs. just a vast unending expanse of books to overwhelm you as you try to wade through them.
4. A Third Space - A third space is somewhere besides home and work that you spend time in; a space that is comfortable and enjoyable for you to be in. Bookstores (and coffee shops!), for me and all of us bookish people, generally fit that bill. My local haunt has two store cats, comfy armchairs scattered around, a mish-mash of rugs, friendly people, and tables and space to sit down with books and pour through them a bit. It's cozy and roomy all at once and just has such a relaxed easy vibe to it. You'll find that different bookstores have different personalities, some are airy and modern, some are crowded and homey, some are whimsical and cozy, it just depends on what you like best!
Do yourself a favor and go out and explore what your local bookstores have to offer; I promise you won't be disappointed, and that extra dollar will be well worth spending. Let me know how it goes and what treasures you find!