William Kent Krueger
William Kent Krueger

Together, We Can Save the Independent Bookstores

When I was a kid, every town had a bookstore.  An independent bookstore.  Some towns had several.  They were as ubiquitous as local drugstores with soda fountains and as important as any other element to the life of a community.  It’s not like that now.  Our local, independently owned bookstores are an endangered species. They’re the victims of big chains and of Amazon, yes.  But they’re also endangered because of our own lethargy and our insensitivity to both the necessity and the importance of these very valuable resources.

Borders has gone the way of the dodo bird.  If what we hear is true, Barnes and Noble is on the ropes.  And when that chain is gone, know who’s left?  Amazon.  The big faceless corporation for whom books are simply another commodity and each of us is simply a revenue source.

Buying from independents is in our own best interest.  It assures that no one large entity will control what’s available to us as readers.  Freedom—and it does come down to this—is all about choice.

Most of the signings I do are at independents.  I’ll be signing on Friday at a wonderful small bookstore in Hudson, Wisconsin, called Chapter2Books.  Like most independents, they walk a fine line between red ink and black.  If you live in the area, I would consider it a personal favor if you came and experienced this lovely shop and began to do your book buying there.  Here’s a link to a great blog about these folks and their plight.

Thanks for listening.  And remember: Think globally.  Shop locally.

16 thoughts on “Together, We Can Save the Independent Bookstores”

  1. Wow. Simply – yet very beautifully – stated!

    While deep in my heart I know you’re absolutely right, I hope you’re wrong. I hate the idea of losing book stores. While I love the convenience of downloading a book in seconds, or ordering a book through Amazon when I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to run down to the local bookstore, I love even more absolutely everything about a REAL bookstore…the smell of the books, the helpful book lovers who work there and can always steer you in the right direction, the conversation sparked by that the search for just the right book….all of those things that are elusive online.

    Thank you for reminding us all about how important the “real deal” is.

  2. Thankfully, there are some wonderful independent bookstores still standing and I completely agree that it’s important we keep them afloat–as readers and writers. One I’ve studied well because it’s owned by women who have become friends, Kay and Molly at Bentpages in Houma, Louisiana. What these booksellers do is amazing–they read, and they know their clientele. You can act out a book when you can’t remember the title and they and their staff will jump hoops to figure out what book you want. Customers come from all over, sometimes great distances, because Kay and Molly will know their taste and pick out books for them that they can just pick out. They have kept the human touch in books. Once upon a time, there were still special units of chain stores that had such wonderful people, too. A few more I know well are Books and Books–two locations in the Miami area, and Murder on the Beach, Palm Beach area. Many survive now by being new and used which is not a bad thing. No store can carry and author’s complete back list and it’s by buying back list that readers often “meet” new authors.

    Thank you so much for this!

  3. I am a four time publised author (mcmillan) and love bookstores. I ignored e-books as long as I could but finally surrendered to the seductive convenience of easy buying, reading without glasses and a reading light, automatic definitions, recall of characters and lower prices. I didn’t grow up with this kind of reading and I love the atmosphere in a library of bookstore. But I’ve become an advocate. Independent book stores need to find a way to offer both hardcovers and digital or they will go the way of the buggy whip. It is the consumer who will determine their fate.

  4. One of these responses said it all:
    “While I love the convenience of downloading a book in seconds, or ordering a book through Amazon when I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to run down to the local bookstore….”

    Does this lady know that independent bookstores also offer books online and even eBooks? The problem is that Amazon is crowding out all the other voices. Their big money buys hours of ads on TV so people automatically think kindle when they think eReader. What about Kobo, Nook, Sony and other eReaders that allow you to buy from independents like ME? If you want to read on an eReader, then think outside of the Amazon box and buy from anyone else BUT Amazon. I can read any eBook on my Nook or my Kobo and I don’t have to buy them from Amazon. I can buy them from my own independent bookstore or from any other source other than Amazon.

    Today bookstores- tomorrow the world. Wake up and realize what Amazon is doing! Fashion, electronics, even fabric- what next?

  5. Thanks for the thoughtful words, Kent — a nice complement to James Patterson’s ad.

    Quick reminder to readers / posters … one can appreciate and purchase ebooks without supporting Spamazon. Nooks, Kobos, and other ebook readers and apps are out there and help support a healthy and diverse publishing industry. Many indie booksellers also have an on-line presence and ebook options.

  6. Steve F:

    Independent bookstores are about more than Hardcovers. independent bookstores offer e readers and e downloads through Kobo. Kobo’s downloads are universal to Kindles and Nooks etc.

    We also offer e reader covers, along with other gift items, cards for snail mail, journals, local art, toys and puzzles, posters, t shirts, bookplates

    paperbacks…….. children’s books to give as gifts at baby showers, books for grandchildren, wedding planners, travel guides, used books, pocket guides to wine, gardening books, so many things , one very important category: books for reluctant readers. Every day we get parents looking for books for kids in late gradeschool years to high school who aren’t into reading. We can sell them Captain underpants if that’s all they think the child will read. We can also inspire the child standing with them to try the Hobbit. We also have non fiction, ultimate survival guides and adventure books that usually do the trick, graphic novels.

    We have parents with toddlers who are excited to watch their toddler toddle over to the chunky books on the low shelves.

    It wasn’t clear whether you self describe as an advocate for e readers or libraries and bookstores. If you meant you are an advocate for e readers, open your heart and mind and reread what Kent said. If you meant you are an advocate for bookstores and libraries…..well….thanks? I guess? but do me a favor, don’t advocate anymore because you suck at it.

  7. Steve, you make valid points. That’s why most independent bookstores *do* offer hard books and e-books. You can shop online at many (most?) independent bookstores. You can download e-books, and buy e-readers.

    I have a saying – if it’s a book, you can get it at Reading Frenzy (shameless plug). I may have to order it (like you would from Amazon!), but if it’s a book, you can get it from me. Or Chapter 2 Books in Hudson. Or any one of a number of independents. And that includes e-books.

    As Ann Patchett so eloquently said on Stephen Colbert last year “come and do a signing at my store. Your friends will be here. We’ll have music. You’ll have a great time. And then next week grab your Sharpee and a box cutter and go sign books at Amazon. You tell me which one you like better.

  8. On behalf of independent booksellers everywhere, thank you!
    But if you really want to put your money where your “shop local” mouth is, remove the links to Amazon and other online giants from this site.

  9. You’re absolutely right. If this is what I believe, I should walk the walk. To that end, I’ve asked my web person to remove the purchase links for Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Books A Million. The links I’ll retain and will add to are those that are serviced by independent bookstores. In our struggle together, every little bit helps.

  10. Kent, I am amazed, absolutely amazed at your willingness to remove links. My hope has always been just for the IndieBound logo to be first on the list!
    I’ve never said anything to authors we work with when they post about kindle download sales etc because I know that ultimately the authors are trying to sell their books. The fact that you’ll take this next step that brett mentioned….wow.
    How many times have I said thank you to you recently? consider this time #billion and one

  11. This means so much to me today especially. You may have heard of the school that burned last night in Roberts. A restauranteur in Hudson who has a huge outreach on facebook started a book drive this morning. People asked him if they could order Amazon and I just wanted to scream “use your bookstore” ! We are one block away from the restaurant.

  12. I own a small independent book store in Boone, North Carolina. I am currently reading and hand-selling “Ordinary Grace.” Congratulations on it, and thanks for writing a book that I love recommending! Thanks also for sticking up for local book stores!

  13. :-)) Kudu’s for removing links to Amazon
    ..as a voracious reader and
    purchaser of books..only from
    independent bookstores..I salute you!!
    I am an emergent literacy advocate by
    profession and vocation

  14. I’m assuming that the big faceless corporation(s) for whom books are simply another commodity and each of us is simply a revenue source….does not include the Book Publishing Industry?

    I thought so!

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