Though I’ve been a book addict since before I could read and much of my childhood was spent haunting Barnes and Nobles or public libraries, it wasn’t until college that I really discovered independent bookstores.
Here are my top 3 reasons to choose an independent bookstore:
1. Cheaper books
Many independent bookshops stock used as well as new books. As any economist can tell you, when the price of a commodity falls, demand for it rises, because people can afford to buy more of it. Cheaper books=more books on my shelf. Where’s the problem?
Far from the mass-produced commerciality of chain bookstores, with their hygienic, matching stacks of flash-in-the-pan bestsellers, independent bookstores have the allure of individuality and eccentricity. Don’t get me wrong–I love a good multi-story Barnes and Noble with a digitized inventory system (I spent two college summers working in one), or in Britain, a big, clean Blackwell’s or Waterstones. But from the sign over the door to the entrance display of books to the cat in the window, no two used bookstores are exactly alike.
Chain bookstores have the feel of business parks; independent bookstores are more like house parties with literary friends. You step in and run into someone you know (“Mr. Wordsworth! It’s been too long!”), make some small talk, and pretty soon they’re introducing you to their friends and their friends’ friends (Eco, Joyce, Zusak, I take down on my To-Read list). Next thing you know, you’re exchanging business cards and promising to keep in touch and walking out with a dreamy smile and a stack of “finds” you didn’t know existed an hour ago. (This is why I often leave my credit card in the car when I enter a bookstore.) It reminds me of the movie Midnight in Paris, where if you step into the magic car at midnight, you might be whisked off to sit in Gertrude Stein’s living room and watch Hemingway argue with Fitzgerald. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by the collective wisdom and camaraderie that I get teary in front of the fiction section.
|Image courtesy of stock.xchng and kaeska|
So, to shed some light on these little-known gems (and to give myself an excuse to visit more of them), I’m starting a blog series profiling various independent bookstores, especially those that include used books. Some will be local to my area, some farther afield. While there won’t be a new one every week (I wish), this series will be recurrent as I discover more bookstores. If you read about one you’ve visited, feel free to post your experience with it in the comments section. If there’s one that strikes your fancy, go visit (and let me know how it goes)! Or, best of all, if you have recommendations for bookstores I should cover, I’d be only too happy to hear about them 🙂
Next week: a trio of bookstores on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz…