Every few months or so there’s a new conversation about independent bookstores (or “indies”) and a certain big, monopoly behemoth that also sells books. On the one hand, monopolies are inherently bad for everyone but the monopoly. On the other hand, there are arguments to be made about ease of access, affordability, and even safety.
I, honestly, don’t care which you choose, as long as you make an informed choice. Because at the end of the day, There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch – or book.
When you buy a book at your local bookstore, you’re paying for more than just the book. You’re paying local taxes that will help fund the roads, the schools, and other services.
You’re paying for the salaries of the employees who can tell you all about the most recent fantasy adventure that came out that they know you’ll love.
You’re paying for the air conditioning (or heat!) you get to enjoy, the bathrooms, the comfy chairs you sit in for hours, the cafe you use to do your homework or meet with your local writing group, the free wifi you use to check goodreads for reviews before ultimately plucking that perfect book from the shelf.
You’re paying for all the free events your local bookstore puts on, the free classes they host weekly, the author signings and author talks and author haunts.
Not all indies provide these services, but if yours does, and if you find value in these things, it’s worth keeping in consideration.
My favorite indie does all of these things. When I lived in Seattle, Elliott Bay Book Company in downtown was the place to go on rainy lunch breaks. I always had to be careful – I could never go there and leave without a book. The staff were full of recommendations, but before I even had to utter a word, there were well-curated tables full of books and fully-stocked shelves that smelled of new paper and old wood.
To be able to go into a place with so many, many books and be able to find something I knew I’d love within just a few minutes was not an accident. Creating and maintaining a place like that takes skill – and work.
So if you haven’t yet, take a walk in your local indie bookstore and see what they’ve been up to. You might be surprised at what you find.