Supporting Neighbourhood Bookstores
September 28, 2021
“What I say is, a town isn’t a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it’s got a bookstore, it knows it’s not foolin’ a soul.”—Neil Gaiman, American Gods.
Online sources regularly deliver print books faster than local bookstores. Often, but not always, they can do so at a cheaper price. Generally, they’re price-competitive. Invariably, they deliver books into the hands of readers a lot more conveniently than having to make journeys along the local high street or the mall. It’s the modern-day retail model, and it’s not altogether a bad thing.
Local bookstores, whether they are indies or part of a chain, often struggle in the face of online technologies and this new business model. Readership patterns are evolving rapidly. Neighbourhood bookstores are forced to adapt or die. We all walk or drive past locations that, at one time, were home to our local bookstore. Hollywood makes movies from the David and Goliath bookstores theme.
The good news is that many local bookstores are surviving. After the initial meltdown from this powerful new competition, many local bookstores have adapted with sharply reduced inventories and non-book products. In response to book orders, and apart from a handful of best sellers, they follow the print-on-demand culture with which indie authors are so familiar.
The survival of so many local bookstores in the face of such adversity is nothing less than remarkable. So, when we have a chance to support them, let’s do so—not in place of online shopping, but in addition to it. Drop in and say hello. You might just find that title you’ve been looking for. If you’re taking the grandchildren for the afternoon, introduce them to the local bookshop culture. They won’t want to leave the store—and, years later—they’ll credit you for having nurtured their love of reading. As indie authors, we share several mutual objectives with the good folks who keep the bookstores open.
Remember also that the new technologies and new business models don’t hold all the advantages. Local bookstores can be magical places for children and adults of all ages. Browsing shelves is always exhilarating—stirring the imagination. And it’s a treat just to chat with knowledgeable, enthusiastic and dedicated staff—and with other customers. You can’t buy that online. Neil Gaiman’s words capture this sentiment exquisitely. Let’s help make sure that our communities have thriving local bookstores—so that our towns can properly be the kinds of towns we want them to be.