Not so long ago, headlines read that independent bookstores were on their way out or already dead. Naturally, as a book lover, the news made my heart sink. Ever since childhood, one of my favorite type of outings is going to a bookstore.
In fact, this past weekend as part of our date weekend, my husband and I visited two local ones dedicated to buying and selling used books. Bookcases towered high, touching the ceiling, and shelves were overflowing with choices. I enjoyed browsing every last bookcase, spending the bulk of my time at shelves housing my current interests of animal, pet, and children’s books. As happens every time I step into a book store, I also walked out with a handful of purchases.
While Andy and I left the one bookstore and headed to the second, he posed a question: How do independent bookstores survive? Headlines have for years warned about the demise of bookstores due to Amazon and e-readers. My husband also brought up Abe Books where, I admit, we often buy books. Then there’s the lament we’ve expressed pretty much during my whole teaching career, which is young people these days are more into video games and cell phones than they are into books.
An article which appeared in 2015 at Financial Review included a quote from a business minister that said physical book stores would practically vanish by 2016, due in the perceived dominance of emerging digital technology. Although the article described the book world situation in Australia, it’s still interesting to me that a decision was for two bookstores to open that specialized in children’s books. The general consensus by those in the Australian book industry was that children and young adult literature had “emerged as a consistent strong-selling market” to not just young people but also to adults.
Back in the United States, Huff Books didn’t just say bookstores could be saved but reported the news that they were making a comeback. Why the turnaround? Huff Books says it took the closure of some major chain bookstores to help, along with a few other movements. Two of them echoes the reasons I gave to my husband during out weekend walk about how our own city’s stores have survived. First, there’s a push across the country to buy local. Second, for dedicated readers, “a bookstore is as much part of the social fabric of the community as is an old-fashioned town square or a beloved park.” The article mentioned a third reason too, which is that store closures alerted consumers to what they might lose.
An in-depth research might suggest other factors too, but I’d more interested in hearing from you. Where do you buy books? Do independent bookstores exist in your area? And, if they do, how do you think they have survived?