When you shop at an independent bookstore, you open the door to a personal experience that supports your community and gives you access to great reads. And you become part of the life cycle of a book, taking part in its journey as it shapes your own.
As indie bookstores across the country get ready to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day on August 29th with virtual events and special offerings, we celebrate the vital role booksellers play in the journey of a book, as they work every day to get more books into the hands of more readers.
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For independent booksellers, business is personal. In handselling their inventory, they strive to match a book to its perfect reader and introduce customers to books they may not have otherwise discovered. The expertise and personal touch make independent bookstores stand out in the digital age of algorithms.
Tom Nissley has seen different sides of the book business, having worked as an editor for a major online retailer before opening Phinney Books and later Madison Books in Seattle, Washington. The highlight of bookselling has been not only experiencing a deeper connection with his neighborhood of 20 years, he said, but also creating a connection between book and reader as well.
“I loved being in the book business when I was with the big internet company, but I hated never knowing where the books were going,” Nissley said. “I had some power – I could sell a thousand copies of a book by promoting it. But I’d much rather sell one book to one person I know.”
The sentiment resonates with customers as they continue to show support for independent bookstores across the country. Independent Bookstore Day provides a great opportunity to celebrate indies by ordering a new book (or two!), whether it’s a bestseller, a gift for a loved one, or the bookseller’s latest recommendation.
Just as customer support makes all the difference to an indie bookstore, the support of an indie bookstore in turn can make all the difference to an author.
Author C Pam Zhang credits independent bookstores for shaping the culture and conversation as they support books that may not have had an audience generations ago – like her own book about immigration, How Much of These Hills is Gold.
“What’s amazing to me is indie booksellers do the work, the really hard work, of making sure that we do not fall into cultural homogeneity, that there isn’t just the 10 bestsellers or the 20 must-read books picked out by algorithms and like five magazines in the country,” Zhang said. “Indie booksellers really do their best to champion the weird work, the experimental work, the work with the unlikeable characters or the strange women or the marginalized people. Without them, I just don’t even know where we would be. We would be incredibly stagnant.”
Authors will play a part in this year’s Independent Bookstore Day, with virtual events and signed editions of their work available exclusively at indie bookstores on August 29th.
Independent Bookstore Day has always been a time of community celebration, even as the idea of community shifts in an unprecedented time. Not too long ago, bookstores were gathering places for readers of all ages. Now, they show their love for their communities by finding new ways to connect and by changing the very makeup of their businesses to keep customers and employees safe. From setting up online orders and curbside pickup to organizing virtual chats with authors and community leaders, bookstores have been working incredibly hard to provide their customers – and communities – with the same level of service.
On Independent Day, and every day, we celebrate booksellers for their unique perspectives and their shared dedication to bringing more books to more readers. Happy Independent Bookstore Day to our indie friends and all who show their #booklove by shopping local!