Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Buying Indie When You Can't Buy Local

I'm a big supporter of the "Buy Local" movement, having seen both through research studies and personal experience that supporting merchants within your own town and neighborhood benefits your community far more than buying from a big-box chain store. For obvious reasons, I am especially supportive of local booksellers. But what to do when there are no independent bookstores in your area?

I was faced with exactly this dilemma when searching for a signed copy of The Tiger's Wife, the debut novel by Tea Obreht. I have heard great things about this book (and will be starting it soon, so look for a review in the near future), but there was nowhere to find a signed copy in my area. The nearest independent bookstore is more than 60 miles away and had no signed copies.

Then I saw a post on Facebook from Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn saying that they had a few signed copies left (Obreht was there for a signing a few days ago). I immediately went to their website ( and snapped up a copy. Within a few hours I received a nice e-mail telling me that my order had been filled and would ship soon. Imagine that: better customer service from two time zones away than I get at the Borders down the street.

While I was not able to buy the book locally, I was still able to support a local independent bookshop rather than a chain; it just happened to be the Fort Greene, Brooklyn neighborhood. And as strange as it may sound, I was even happy to pay the New York sales tax. I live in a state that is laying off teachers at the same time Amazon is fighting to keep from paying the $275 million in sales taxes they owe the State of Texas, so I'm a big believer in E-fairness when it comes to collecting sales tax.

So the next time you can't find a book at your local indie bookstore, or if you have no indie bookstore near you, try buying online from an independent bookstore like Greenlight (or Powell's in Portland or Murder By the Book in Houston or the Tattered Cover in get the idea). It may not directly benefit your community, but it directly benefits someone's community, and the more local business that thrive the better off we'll all be.