Today, on the eve of a new year, Hartford Books Examiner reflects on the importance of the independent bookstore.
Given the state of the economy, the prevalence of eReaders, and the money savings gambits of online retailers and big box superstores, it’s easy to see why many independent bookstores are struggling for survival – or have shuttered their doors for good.
While it’s true that these locally owned and operated establishments may not be able to offer the convenience of shopping without ever having to leave the comfort of your home or the dramatic discounts of mainstream sellers, they do extend a variety of services that can’t be replicated by the likes of Amazon or Wal-Mart.
First among this list would be customer service. Booksellers are, for the most part, an educated, passionate, and enthusiastic bunch. They want to put the right book in your hands, not just a book. They’re the ones who will know what title to recommend for the readers in your life, whether reluctant or voracious – and they’re the ones who will be able to hunt down that elusive book based on the vaguest of descriptions. And it’s that personal touch that makes the difference every time.
Additionally, bookstores are – or should be – cornerstones of the community. Not only are you going to get the retail experience, but the charming ambiance that comes along with it. Meet your neighbors, have conversation, share ideas, browse the shelves... (If you’re lucky, you might even snag a cup of coffee.) In a bookstore, you’re something bigger than yourself.
Further, bookstores bring readers and writers together. There’s something magical about meeting your favorite author (or being introduced to a new one) and having the opportunity to own a signed copy of their book. And writing is a solitary endeavor, so the opportunity for writers to be out amongst real characters is equally memorable for them.
In addition to author signings, bookstores host a variety of events. From book clubs, open mic nights, and concerts to holiday gatherings and birthday celebrations, writing seminars, and open houses – there’s something for everyone. In sum, you don’t just support them – they also support you.
It’s also worth noting that the majority of the money that is spent local stays local. In addition to the obvious financial perks, this supports community-based jobs. Need I say more?
These are but a few of the many advantages of brick and mortar bookstores. (Please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments section below.) Sadly, it’s often these very things that we take for granted. Though a common refrain is, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, we possess that knowledge today. What we need to do is use it.
In the New Year, please remember to support your local booksellers. After all, they don’t just provide books – they provide an experience…