Updated: Dec 31, 2022
There's lots of ways to buy books these days, but the best is - by far - from an indie bookstore.
Here’s five reasons why.
As customers, we've forgotten something: it isn’t just what we buy that should give us enjoyment and pleasure, but the experience of buying it, too.
The internet and the bigger chain stores fall down here.
Yes, they can be convenient, but the downside is a lack of human interaction. There’s no conversation. No back and forth. No “hey, how’s your day”. No relationships developed. No connection (sometimes literally in the case of the internet).
They can be stressful too! We’ve all been stuck in the long queues at Christmas, or missed a delivery from DPD while we're out and about.
The indie bookstore is different.
There, you're encouraged to take your time. You can have a browse, or flick through something that catches your interest, or chat with the lovely staff, or do nothing and just soak up the atmosphere.
Indies have adopted a uniquely easy-going, chilled-out approach to consumer capitalism. Honestly, I don’t know how they haven’t all gone bankrupt.
I kid, of course. I do know. They’re still in business (and thriving, as a matter of fact, according to articles like this) because they make bookbuying fun, relaxing, memorable, and pleasurable.
It’s why we love them, and why they’re never going away.
The Secondhand Section
We’ve all been there.
You wander into the secondhand section for an innocent browse and next thing, you’re outside with a big pile of new (old) books.
And for next to nothing too! You almost feel guilty, like you stole something. But no, my friend, you can relax: all those classics really did only cost €10.
Besides the one you stole. You should feel guilty about that.
Seriously though, indie bookstores often have incredible secondhand sections. And this is an area where they outshine the chains, where the focus is on pricier unused editions.
Now, don't get me wrong: I like a fancy new hardback as much as anyone. But I'll take a cheaper alternative any day of week.
Plus, as an added bonus, indies will buy your old books too! A handy way of making some extra cash, while freeing up some space on the bookshelf.
The indie bookstore plays an important role in its community.
As well as promoting, supporting, and stocking local authors, it'll often host events where people can meet, chat, and get creative: lectures, workshops, book clubs, readings, and themed evenings, to name a few.
Also, did you know that “28% of all indie bookstore revenue immediately recirculates in the local economy”? Well it does, according to this post by Jenn Homen.
Think about that for a moment. It's almost a third!
A lot more than Amazon (just 4%).
Evidentally, when it comes to the community, indies aren't just important in a social, cultural and artistic sense - but economic too.
You might think, with their vast amounts of stock, that Amazon and the chains would be the places for great finds.
On the contrary!
If you're looking for your next favourite writer or book, go to your local store instead.
Why? Well, because indie booksellers are expert curators. They know their literature, and take pride in what they stock, and what they sell. You can pick anything from the shelf, and be sure that it's going to be good.
Also, indies are all about developing relationships with their customers. Besides just being a nice thing in itself, it also means that, over time, staff get to know you and your reading preferences.
This makes for some excellent recommendations.
Indie booksellers: the original, and best, sales algorithm.
All manner of people run bookstores.
There’s the “Bernard Black”- type: a bit curmudgeonly, yes, but usually hilarious and often very memorable. They have, underneath the spikey exterior, a heart of solid gold.
Then there’s the softer ones. The sort that greets with a warm smile, and are unfailingly polite, patient, and kind. They, and their stores, have an air of quiet dignity and civility about them.
And then there's the many, many others that don’t fit neatly into these two crude stereotypes.
Regardless of who they are and what they’re like though, owners are an essential, and sometimes overlooked, reason why we love indies.
Not least because they had the courage and self-belief to start them, but because their store is a reflection of their personality and interests.
Without them, your local one wouldn’t be what it is – if it would even exist at all.
So kudos, indie bookstore owners everywhere! We love you all.