Books are important. And they are available at many places: Amazon, Wal Mart, Costco, Barnes & Noble, on and on and on. It's so easy. One click, and the following day the book arrives without even leaving the comfort of the recliner. That's a statement on our modern age, which strives for the utmost convenience in everything from fast food to reading material.
So why, oh why, would anyone bother to get in the car, drive to an independent bookstore, park, find a book, pay, and then have to go home again. What if it rains, snows, a tire blows, an over-eager parking enforcer tickets the car? It's the same book that Amazon would have delivered, only one day later. Who has the time to bother?
All of these tongue-in-cheek statements contain a certain truth. I admit to ordering books on-line. And it is easy. But it's not the same. In a similar way to a printed book differing from an e-version, there is an experiential dynamic in the personal involvement that is not present in cyberspace. A difference that is so worth it.
Indie bookstores are small businesses, most often owned and staffed by lovers of books. Someone who owns, say, a small grocery, is most often in business because they saw a local need and are trying to fill it and to make a living. That's good. But booksellers are a different breed. They are in love with books and with the creative art of being a writer or the fascination of being a reader. They also need to make a living. Love might be 'all you need,' but money helps. And that comes from selling books.
There is a relationship that develops when one shops in a small bookstore. Because hoards of people don't come through the door, and the staff is small, readers and merchants get to know one another. It's like building any relationship. You get acquainted, which means your reading likes, dislikes, and goals will become known through the books you buy. Rather than scroll through screen after screen on the computer, your bookseller will be able to make suggestions and guide you. And you can flip through real pages of actual books to see what excites you.
Authors most often debut their books in a smaller venue, which gives the reader a chance to meet and interact with writers. Wonder why your favorite character in a book got killed off in chapter fourteen? Ask! Authors love to talk about their work, about the business of writing, and even provide a window into their personal lives. The book you buy can be autographed, without waiting for hours in line for an impersonal nano second with the writer. Again, a relationship is developing that benefits authors and readers alike. You may even get some hints about that next book that everyone is waiting for.
A related benefit of shopping local is that you are shopping local. Communities need the vibrancy that only a small business can bring. They become part of the fabric of the area, participating in events, donating their time to further literacy, and teaching a new generation to embrace the magic of the printed word.
Why now? It's not that there was ever a time that wasn't good to shop indie. But we live in an era of big. Box stores, corporate giants, convention centers, super-sized everything. Consider your big business shopping experiences. What words come to mind? Impersonal. Uniform. Unfulfilling. Anonymous. Frustrating. Long lines. Being on hold for an hour with customer service.
While there certainly is a place in our day to day lives for big--who doesn't want to order the extra large chocolate shake--there also needs to be a place for small. Independent bookshops are, well, independent. Don't we need more of this? Our nation is undergoing many changes and divisions, with people aligning in a group-think mentality. Whatever side you fall on for whatever issue, don't you think it's refreshing to embrace individuality, relationship, and creativity close to home?
I had my first book launch party at my local bookstore, Mystery Lovers Bookshop. The owners, Tara and Kristie, couldn't have done more to make it a success. Because they got to know me, and I them. From ordering books, to setting up chairs, to advertising on flyers with each purchase, to setting out cupcakes, they were all over it. And since I got to know them, I was eager to do my own advertising, to send people to their store, and to make it a success for them as well. Personal service is only personal if it's individual.
So why indie? Why now? Because it makes sense, it fosters community. And it puts both reader and writer into a setting where magic happens. Independent bookstores are a natural resource to be protected, nurtured, and enjoyed. So--go find your nearest bookshop. Introduce yourself. And buy a book!