Bookstores Aren't Going Anywhere

Some believe that Amazon and the mega bookstores are killing the smaller, indie bookstores. In some cases, this may be true. Another story of "Fox Books" dominating the local book communities with their "cheap books and legally addictive stimulants" (You've Got Mail, 1998)? Possibly.

But, take heart.

Indie bookstores are sprouting up all over North America, and in many cases, they are the centers of community activities and events. Being in business is hard, expensive and risky. Many retail businesses do not survive the first two years of being in operation. But somehow we are still hearing about bookstores that are valued by their patrons, esteemed by fellow business owners, and relied upon to be the anchor tenants in neighborhoods.

So, why is it that the small, independent bookstores are not just surviving, but being counted on to thrive and make a lasting impact on a reading community that chooses to support them?


There is nothing quite like the warm, organic embrace of natural wooden shelves filled with paper books, inviting you to come closer and investigate their hidden treasures. There is often soft lighting, delicately placed ornaments, and lifestyle decor with personal, literary touches strewn about. There is no feeling quite like strolling casually between loaded bookshelves, taking a leisurely break from the chaos of life to get lost in the sweet peace of book covers promising adventure, drama, and intrigue. Your fingertips can slide along the spines of any genre, books new and old, and you can choose any book to take out, flip through and consider getting to know better. Soft music often plays, people move about in quiet contemplation, and the happy ring of the bell over the door reminds you that Readers just like you have joined the party. And can we pause for a moment and talk about the familiar bookstore smell? It is not a myth. Readers anticipate it, breathe deeply that organic mixture of time and creativity, and yes, some even open a book and hold it up to their nose to get a whiff. There is no place like an indie bookstore. Each one reflects the character and passion of its owner so there are no two alike. That is magical. And we all need some magic.


Technology is wonderful. If it weren't for our reliance on digital devices and communication, you wouldn't be reading this, would you? It was a natural tendency to assume that when technology became such a powerful influence on our lives, it would replace other ways of information gathering and entertainment. After all, we have the whole world in our pockets now. So, when ebooks first came on the scene with their fancy e-readers and hundred book storage capacity, readers were gallantly wooed. They tried it, dabbled in swiping a bar instead of flipping a page, and for a time it seemed that paper books were to meet their demise. But that did not happen. Readers who love the feel, the smell and the raw experience of a paper book could not be convinced that a screen would replace their favorite way to read. Some readers like both, some prefer one over the other and the "Ebooks vs Tree Books" debate still rages... but paper books are still wildly popular and there is no sign of them going away anytime soon. Audiobooks have risen in popularity over the past couple of years with companies like offering thousands of titles that Readers can have read to them on any portable device, finding another creative way to fit stories into their busy lives. Readers gotta read. And yet, paper books are still near and dear to our hearts. 


So much commercial design has modern, sleek lines of glass and chrome, reflective of our technologically refined culture. Minimalism has taken root in many retail spaces, displaying sterile environments with blank white walls and shiny floors. But bookstores remind us of the libraries and comfy reading nooks we grew up with,  aisles loaded with memories, history, and imagination galore. It's like being a kid again. If you are like me, you remember the thrill of going to the library and having access to so many more titles than your precious little arms could hold. We can't duplicate the feeling of being in a room filled with books laid out for our service. There is nothing like it. We loved it when we were young, and as adults, we love the same jubilant feeling of stepping into an environment that seems to be removed from the stress and temporary insanity that fills the world we live in. Going into a bookstore evokes a sense of calm wonder like nowhere else. Cafes have the background noise of grinders, steamers, and the constant hub of conversation... but bookstores invite you to talk quietly, revere the harmony of paper and imagination and remind you that what is old is new again. And better than ever.


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