Monday, March 18, 2013

Indie Bookstores Rise from the Ashes

For years now the media has covered stories about the closing of independent bookstores with an unexplainable glee. Yesterday a story in The Christian Science Monitor went the opposite direction, devoting their feature story to the fact that independent bookstores are actually on the upswing, with more opening every year and 2012 having been a banner year for sales.

The Monitor's story, aptly titled "The Novel Resurgence of Independent Bookstores," summed up the current climate for indie booksellers this way:

Community support is by no means unique to Bank Square Books (in Mystic, Connecticut), and it may be the secret ingredient behind a quiet resurgence of independent bookstores, which were supposed to go the way of the stone tablet – done in first by the national chains, then Amazon, and then e-books.

A funny thing happened on the way to the funeral.

While beloved bookstores still close down every year, sales at independent bookstores overall are rising, established independents are expanding, and new ones are popping up from Brooklyn to Big Stone Gap, Va. Bookstore owners credit the modest increases to everything from the shuttering of Borders to the rise of the "buy local" movement.

There is graphic evidence from the American Bookseller's Association to back up these claims:

After a steady decline in the number of independent bookstores during the rapid expansion of Barnes and Noble and Borders, we have gained more than we've lost in the past four years (a net gain of 166 stores and 249 additional locations). And 2013 looks just as bright, in spite of the sluggish economy, with stores like Farewell Books in Austin, TX and Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI (to name just two) opening this spring.

More stores will follow as book lovers with an entrepreneurial spirit see the gaping hole the loss of bookstores has left in our communities, and as people in those communities recognize that there are some things that mean more to the soul of a place than saving a few dollars on Amazon. As I've said for years, the book isn't dead...and neither are bookstores.

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