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April 27, 2016

An Independent Bookseller on Why You Should Shop Indie

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"Vote with your dollar." You may have heard that we have a presidential election this year. I know teenagers are incredibly busy with all the homework assignments and pressure to hurry up and grow up, but I'm guessing this is not the first you're hearing of it. Even if you aren't old enough to vote in November, you should know that you actually place very important votes every day.

I’m not saying this to add to your stress --- no one is expecting that it is possible to spend all your money on fair trade, organic, responsibly sourced, sustainable everything --- BUT I am here to tell you I do think it is possible for you to shop local fairly easily. This is especially true when it comes to one of your favorite hobbies: reading.

In my role as a bookstore owner, I am constantly amazed by how little people know and understand about indie bookstores. My husband and I opened our store five years ago. Before that I was a high school history teacher and he was a credit union manager --- obviously we were both avid readers! I loved hearing about my students’ reading preferences, but I had no idea how frustrating it would be to own our store. The rise of e-readers made encouraging people to shop indie an especially difficult task. As a buyer, however, it is definitely a choice you have, I promise. Did you know you can choose to click a link at indiebound.org and buy online from an independent book store? Even if your town doesn’t have an indie bookstore of its own, you can enter your zip code to the search for the closest one and purchase online.

Why care? I can give you a laundry list of reasons why I wish everyone would shop their local bookstores. Here's a few: the tax dollars stay local, bookstores work with your teachers and libraries to bring authors to town and plan fun events, and bookstores make an awesome hangout. Most importantly, booksellers have a really good idea of what books have good buzz in your area. Beyond buzz, they also know what books are selling well nationally. It’s like having your own personal book concierge!

In addition to tailoring their products to suit your needs, indie bookstores often have internships, advisory panels, book clubs, book release parties and even publisher freebies for the taking!

With major retailers earning all the press, indie bookstores have a hard time convincing people to choose them, despite the benefits. My hope is that instead of just clicking and buying online, you will choose to support the services independent booksellers offer in your own town. There is value in helping keep your indie bookstores in business. How you spend your money is in your control and it does matter, so vote with your dollar and help keep indies alive.

I am 100% confident that we, as bookstore owners, are offering you something special and beneficial. We are not getting rich --- believe me --- we just want more people to choose to shop their local so we can stay open. I love my bookstore and visiting others, I just don't love knowing how underappreciated they are.