You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: Support your local, independent bookstore. Most adults who are avid readers know, deep down, that supporting your neighbourhood bookstore is a good thing to do — but when it’s time to preorder a book or grab a couple of last-minute titles to take along on a weekend get-away, you feel the pull toward Amazon. You don’t have to leave your house. It’s going to arrive right to your door, sans shipping fee, in a day or two. And, yes, it’s even cheaper. But wait!
We know it’s good to support local businesses of all kinds because a much larger chunk of the money you spend there stays local, there is less packaging, and you reduce your carbon footprint. But when we have the option, here’s why independent booksellers, in particular, deserve so many shout-outs.
The employees are super knowledgeable
Sure, you can get recommendations from your friends or check out Goodreads reviews, but sometimes you want to talk to a person who is immersed in a variety of genres because you need some solid suggestions.
You might be thinking you want to try reading a romance novel for the first time but have exactly zero idea of where to start. Or you want to buy a gift for your elderly grandfather (who loves to read books about the world wars), or your teenage niece (who is into graphic novels) but that’s all the information you have to go on. If you’re a regular customer, an independent bookseller will probably also get to know your taste and will have a recommendation ready for you the next time you come in, a concept that is decidedly more personal than “other people who bought x also bought y.”
An independent bookseller is forever keeping their pulse on what is coming out and what is popular so they know what to buy, what to read, and what to recommend.
Shopping there actually supports the book itself
When you shop at an independent bookstore, you’re supporting the store and the new book and its author. Former Lifehacker staff writer Nick Douglas explains why:
There are a lot of books published every year… [and] booksellers have to judge which of those books anyone wants to buy, and stock those. They can’t just stock everything in a warehouse like Amazon does.
So if your favourite author isn’t already a huge deal — we’re talking Danielle Steele level — there’s a chance your local store won’t stock their new book, or will only stick one or two copies on the back shelves, instead of in a prime spot on the front table.
But if you — and your fellow fans — pre-order the book, the bookseller has some hard evidence that there’s a following, and that they should stock and help promote that book. They might even read the book so they can personally recommend it, or host an event for the author.
The ambiance, guys
Really imagine this for a moment: What would life be like if we no longer had our favourite local bookstore to enjoy? My local bookstore (brag: it’s the U.S’s oldest continuously operating bookstore) is one of my favourite spots. Nearly every time I wander through my historic little downtown area, I pull my family inside to buy a book because I cannot bear the thought of losing the store’s ambience.
Independent bookstores are quaint and cosy. They often have natural sunlight streaming in, fresh coffee, and comfy chairs to curl up in while you decide whether the first few pages of that book are going to grab you. (Do you know what Amazon doesn’t have? Sunlight, a place to rest, and steaming hot lattes, that’s what.) Yes, the books are more expensive — but you get what you pay for, and what you get at a local bookstore is a book and a nice afternoon.
Plus, they hold events often featuring local authors or artists (yay for more local support!) and some of your favourite bigger-name authors who are travelling on their latest book tour. Thus, they provide you with opportunities to release your inner fan-girl/boy.
If you have already lost your bookstore, I am so sorry. You’re not alone; The New Yorker reports that — sob — more than one bookstore closed every week last year. But if you haven’t lost yours yet, don’t let this happen to you.