I heard some sad news this week: just when I thought the trend had been reversed, I heard of the demise of (yet) another independent bookstore. It was one I had frequently visited, a short drive from home. It was a store where the books are piled high to the ceiling on dark wooden shelves, reminiscent of Ollivander’s wand shop in Harry Potter; a store which held a treasure trove of second-hand and new, well-known and yet-to-be-discovered titles. It was delicious.
But now it’s gone.
Independent bookstores currently retain less than a third of the bricks-and-mortar bookselling market in Australia, the rest being held by the larger chains and department stores. But independent bookstores are worth so much more than simply as a place where one can go to buy books.
Independent bookstores are just that: independent. They are more likely to take risks with unknown writers, so are the venues where new and emerging writers have the best chance of their printed books being stocked. This means they can be the best venue for book lovers to find something different to the standard offerings of the larger chains and department stores – offerings often only supplied by the larger publishers, thereby limited in range and diversity.
But independent bookstores also offer something else these larger stores and the mega on-line retailers do not: the ability to provide specialised attention to met the individual needs of their customers. That is, they offer a unique social experience to book buyers. Independent bookstores also create local literary communities, holding book groups and events for local authors. They become part of the fabric of their customers’ lives, and are an essential part of regional culture.
And let’s face it: there’s nothing better than a leisurely browse in a bookstore (even better when there’s coffee and a comfy lounge on offer).
This makes them irreplaceable in my book. I will always prefer and support them. Long live (and love) the independent bookstore!
Happy writing (and book buying),
Do you have an independent bookstore you love to visit, and why?