One of the most heartening messages to emerge from the 2014 Book Expo America (BEA): Indie bookstores are enjoying a renaissance. While digital books are still going strong, for the first time since 2005, there are more than 2,000 independent booksellers across the country. What’s more, these bookstores aren’t just surviving; many of them are thriving.
A BEA panel focused on the ways in which brick-and-mortar stores are igniting their ingenuity to create experiences that are ”magical and memorable.” In Austin, Texas, Book People runs literary summer camps; in Maplewood New Jersey, Words bookstore serves as a hub for the local special-needs community, offering helpful books and also providing educational and employment opportunities. In my hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, our creative local indie Watchung Booksellers has organized highly successful genre book groups, including popular Middle Grade and YA reading panels.
Then there are the giants of the indie world, like the Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado, which masterminds from 500 to 600 events annually (wow! that’s almost two events a day). Many of these events are orchestrated in tandem with writing groups, libraries, schools, and colleges. According to Tattered Cover owner, Joyce Meskis, “People are back in the stores. It’s hard to get a computer screen to pour a glass of wine for you at a Book Club Happy Hour.”
This is surely good news for us as writers because booksellers are among our most enthusiastic advocates: they share their personal reading experiences with customers, host readings, bring publishers and authors together, and promote literacy and love of books among young readers. So if there’s a local indie bookstore near you, why not check out its list of events and plan to attend a few? It’s a great way to meet other writers and potential readers. And while you’re there, consider buying a book or two. There’s no better way to support your community than to keep our local bookstores alive and well.