Bookstores: Sharing a Sense of Community and a Love for Books
Community—“Where Everybody Knows Your Name” – Hope I didn’t just date myself by quoting the song from the beloved Cheers TV sitcom that aired during the 1980’s! For those of you who don’t know Sam Malone, Woody, Frasier, or Diane, it was a funny show about friends who would meet at their local bar and you guessed it “everybody knew their name.” A place they could go and relax with good friends. Much like the role our local bookstores play in our neighborhoods – minus the alcohol of course – but a place where one can go and have a shared sense of community.
After the birth of my daughter and sleep deprivation reared its ugly head; some days I had just enough energy to put her in the stroller and walk across the street to our local bookstore. She was going through a stage where all she wanted to look at were yellow ducks, so the owner and staff would put duck books aside knowing I would be in that week. The kindness and support they showed me during that tough time meant a lot to me.
When Borders filed bankruptcy protection February 16th of this year, citing the challenging economy of the last two years and a rapidly changing retail environment for books and related products, one has to wonder how our beloved independent bookstores are holding up in this changing environment (Source: www.penlive.com).
Amazon announced that their Kindle eBook sales surpassed paperback sales in January of this year. This happened pretty quickly since the launch of the Kindle occurred only four years ago. Amazon also states that 2011 has had the fastest year over year growth rate for its U.S. books sales in over a decade, including both eBooks and print – and that Kindle eBook sales are up 3x in 2011 from what they were this time last year (Source: www.techcrunch.com).
So how are independent bookstores staying competitive? Robyn Carperton, the buyer for Laguna Beach Books (www.lagunabeachbooks.com) says they joined with the American Booksellers Association to offer their customers eBooks through Google. She says “that more and more independent bookstore owners are getting on board and offering eBooks on their websites.” Ms. Carperton states that “what sets them apart from the large chain bookstores is offering a diversified selection and not just the bestsellers.”Her customers report that they see books in their store they don’t normally find in the larger bookstore chains.
Alexandra Uhl, owner of A Whale of a Tale Bookshop in Irvine, California since 1989, says that “she has seen many changes these past few years with the arrival of Amazon and eBooks.” One of the things that set them apart is the fact that they can offer their customers expertise, knowledge and recommendations based on their individual needs. Ms. Uhl states “they take a lot of pride in accommodating each person who walks in the door.” Ms. Uhl has built strong partnerships with the local schools and libraries to further support the community (www.awhaleoftale.com). She states that “independent bookstores are not just about selling books, but also about building community.” She is quite right about that. For every $100 spent locally, $68 of that stays in your community. And more of your taxes are reinvested in your area. (Source: www.IndieBound.org)
This personalized attention and care shown by our independent bookstores is rather priceless. Don’t get me wrong, I understand in this tough economy everyone is trying to save a buck. Just try to remember that by also supporting our local bookstores, we are supporting a business that holds a dear place in any community. So, the next time you need a book or two, think about giving back to your community by supporting the place where everybody knows your name!
Melissa Northway is a mom, writer of children’s picture books, and has written a storybook app and book called Penelope the Purple Pirate. Her tomboy was the inspiration to write about a girl who likes to have adventures with her friends, and at the same time teach little ones the importance of treating others with kindness and respect. Penelope the Purple Pirate was chosen as a Top 10 Must-Have eBook by lilsugar of Popsugar.com and as a Top 10 Educational iPad app by Digital Storytime. Penelope is available at the iTunes app store, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Powell’s Independent Bookstore, A Whale of a Tale, and other local bookstores. You can read more about Penelope and Melissa at: www.melissanorthway.com.