Not Everyone Has a Local Independent Bookstore to Support

Posted June 19, 2014 by Stormy in Books / 27 Comments

So, by now we’re all aware of the Hachette vs. Amazon conundrum, correct? There have been many, many blogs, news articles, tweets, and general things written about this feud. My favorite, however, is the Book Riot post called Your Local Brick & Mortar Bookstore is a Privilege. It made me think a lot about how so often, I see bloggers, authors, and readers encouraging others to support local independent bookstores.

Which is great! I totally get this, I really do. I try to shop locally when I can. I don’t live in a big city, so it’s not always possible, but I attempt something, even if it’s just shopping at the state-based chain instead of the worldwide-based chain. But when it comes to bookstores, I don’t have that option, and I’m definitely not alone. The nearest independent bookstores are in Round Rock, Austin, and Dallas–at least an hour and a half.

Now, I don’t live in a “book desert” as defined by the Book Riot article. There is a Barnes & Nobles in town, which I shop at sometimes. It’s on the smaller side for a B&N, but it’s still not the smallest B&N I’ve ever seen, so there are some options. The selection is quite limited though–mostly newer releases. Except for bestsellers, you’d be hard-pressed to find a book published before 2011, at least in the teen section. There’s also a Hastings Entertainment store in my town, which is my favorite place to buy books, as they have older titles & also sell used books(and their used books are always in GREAT condition if they’re on the normal shelves–the only ones in anything less than that are only found on the clearance shelves).

There’s also two used bookstores, which are the closest to local independent bookstores. But these are entirely used books. I love these stores, at times, but they’re not my go-tos for obvious reasons. One is small and cramped and is an unpleasant shopping experience. The other is nice and roomy but completely disorganized. Neither have the best environments to buy books.

So that’s where I’m left at, in my large town. Two chain stores, two used bookstores. And I consider myself lucky, since the tiny town I grew up in definitely did not have that. In my hometown, the only place to even purchase a book was the grocery store–and they had only bestsellers(which makes sense, since they had about a half shelf for books). There were Wal-Marts in two towns(about 20 minutes away) that sold some books. The nearest entertainment store was 35 minutes. The nearest, pure bookstore? At least an hour away, and probably more.

So when I’m encouraged to buy books from my local independent bookseller. . . I’m not sure what to do.

Again, I do have choices where to buy books. I do shop online quite a bit, and no, I don’t always use Amazon(and since the Hachette thing, I’m giving Amazon some distance for awhile, at least for books. Though I do have a Kindle so I’m sure I’ll be back to Amazon at some point).

When I talk about this, someone usually points out that several independent bookstores have online shops and will ship books now. Which is true, and something I’ve utilized before for signed books. However. . . it’s not the same. I encourage and support those independent stores. I do. But they’re not *MY* local store. I hope they thrive for the sake of their communities, but I don’t have the same vested interest in it. Those stores aren’t local for me–and if it comes down to buying a book from a local independent bookstore hundreds of miles away from me or from buying a book at a chain store in my town, I’ll pick the chain store. Because this is my town and I want those bookstores to survive.

So what am I to do?

I’ll suppose I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing–supporting the chain stores here and visiting independent bookstores when I’m in the area(which isn’t very often). Other than that, there’s not much for me to do  in the rallying cry of supporting independent bookstores.



27 responses to “Not Everyone Has a Local Independent Bookstore to Support

  1. I have a GREAT indie near me and I buy books from it when I can but sometimes it’s really just hard on the wallet to buy EVERYTHING from them. I really do try to support them but I also have to drive 40 minutes now to get there. It’s not a terrible drive but with Amazon having better deals and free shipping for ANYTHING with Prime and B&N having better deals and free shipping with membership, it’s hard to pass that up for something more inconvenient. Usually I buy my books from my indie when I’m ready to make a trip and spend a fun day at the book store or when I go there for events — I do want to keep it alive — but I think it’s hard to expect people to buy strictly indie nowadays (especially with ebook deals too!)

  2. This doesn’t really help you at all, but if you’re looking for older stuff B&N can order a lot that they don’t have in stock. My B&N is really good about that. It’s not the same as just browsing and finding a book on the shelf that you’re dying to read, but at least they can bring in what you’re looking for.

  3. I completely feel your pain. But in your case, buying books at those few stores, IS supporting your local bookstore. If you didn’t buy from them, they might go out of business and then you would have nothing :((

    • Stormy

      It is supporting a local bookstore, but I still feel it would be nice to support independent bookstores too. And I do try, whenever I’m in a city with one! But on the whole, I have no desire to stop supporting the chains in my town.

  4. Great post! I only read library books, so I don’t really pay attention to bookstores. I do have a local bookstore nearby though, and I’ve gone there there a couple of times. It was actually a bit of a turn off though-their prices were really marked up and they focused a lot on ‘stuff’ like toys, knick-knacks etc (also ridiculously marked up). So while they were labeled a book store, they didn’t focus on books? Kind of odd really.

    Just found your blog and I’m now a new follower through bloglovin 🙂

    • Stormy

      I have a habit of wanting to own my books, so while I love library books, I buy books more often than I should–I’ve been trying to get in the habit of reading it from the library if the library has it.

      I HATE when stores mark up prices and you can tell. I’ve seen lots of stores that sell knick-knacks and such–I wonder if they sell better than books, which is why the stores carry them? I know I never see anyone browsing those sections in my local stores. . . but that could be a location thing.

  5. Isa

    I wish we had a local indie bookshop around here. There are none. Sure there are some half an hour away in any direction with the car but then there’s the little fact that I live in Germany and frankly I do not care about translations all that much (I don’t despise them but they’re just not the same as the original writing at all) and lo and behold, most bookshops around here don’t even have an English section, unless I’m in the big city. Which is even further away and even then it’s not guaranteed, despite the bookshops there often being parts of chains. There are certainly other online sellers besides Amazon here but they’re often wayyyyy more expensive or they carry a solely German repertoire (which is beyond ridiculous), so it just galls me that Amazon is always the best option for me. 🙁

    • Stormy

      You’re the third person to mention conundrums like that! It seems like it could definitely be especially difficult when trying to get books in a lesser-used language of a country.

  6. Your town’s bookstore situation is very similar to mine. There is a thriving independent bookstore in Nashville, but that particular part of Nashville is about an hour away from me and very difficult to deal with because of the constantly terrible traffic there. I do go to that area from time to time though, I just haven’t had the chance to swing by the bookstore yet. So I can relate! And I agree with your conclusion, what can you do other than support your local chains and the indie bookstores on the occasion you can? And at least you are buying books! That counts for something too, I think!

    • Stormy

      You know, that’s part of what I wondered about when I wrote this post–the nearest independent bookstores to me are about an hour to an hour and a half away, in completely different cities. But I thought of some cities, not the largest ones, if the time difference was the same and how that would affect things.

  7. Cait

    Eh…I can’t really support local bookstores. We have one. ONE. And it’s so so expensive. I’d rather go to Big W or something…I don’t feel bad. I’m poor. 😉 I usually order from Book Depository because it’s the cheapest. It just takes SO long to get to Australia!!

    • Stormy

      The shipping times must be long–I know I’ve had long shipping times when I order in the US from the book depository, and I think they ship from the UK?

  8. I totally understand what you mean by “local” bookstore. I feel the same way. It’s possible to order from independent bookstores online and I do hope they thrive and do well for the sake of their communities and for bookstores in general.

    But part of the appeal of a local bookstore is that you walk in and are familiar with the staff and know the shelves as well as you know your library shelves (or, at least, I know my library shelves).

    Buying from non-local bookstores online is good for them economically but isn’t the same and so I don’t have the vested interested you mentioned that I would if they were local. I love buying signed books from them, though because then I feel like not only am I getting something awesome (signed book!) but I’m supporting something in the author’s community and I’m happy to do that. Because I imagine the author has that “local” connection to that store and i like being a part of that.

    • Stormy

      Yes, it’s that local appeal! I want to invest in MY community. I’m the same way with buying online from independent bookstores–it makes me happy to support any independent bookstore & I know that community will benefit(especially, like you said, if it’s the author’s local community). But something is lost, at least for me, when it’s not a store that *I* personally can walk in and get to know.

  9. I have so much love for this post!

    While I do live in an area where the nearest indie bookstore is less than ten minutes away, I very much understand not having one so close to you. Up until I was about eight or so, there was one literally a minute from my house by car. At that point, the internet wasn’t a big thing, somehow my parents didn’t know about the one that’s only ten minutes from my house, and the one that’s a little further away didn’t even open until seven years ago (when I was 19). So, for a long, my parents to Barnes & Noble and (before it closed) Borders. I will admit that I really need to shop at B&N less and shop at one of my indie stores more. Of course, part of the problem is that I am lucky enough that my nearest Barnes & Noble has a used book section (from what I hear, I feel like it’s the only one of its kind, but I’m not 100% sure as I’ve never looked it up), and, well, I like bargains, so… yeah. However, I do also go to library book sales very frequently and therefore support my local (and sometimes not-so-local) libraries, so that kind of makes up for it, right?

    • Stormy

      Ooh, I’m super jealous your B&N has used books! I shop at Hastings a lot because they have used book and they are super picky about which books they accept so I know the used books I buy there will pretty much be in almost perfect condition. Most of the time they only thing that even shows their not a new copy is a black mark on the bottom. Some of their clearance books are in a little worst condition, but the worst book I ever bought there only had a torn dust jacket, which I consider pretty good condition by used book standards.

      Ooh, I do the library thing too! Which, when you put it that way, makes me feel better. I LOVE my local library. They do some really cool things and I gladly hand over tons of money to the big used book sale they have every fall.

      • Oooh, that’s awesome about the quality of books at Hastings! I’ve never been to one because there aren’t any on the east coast, but I have bought some from them online and they’ve always been in good-great used condition.

        I think B&N is somewhat picky as well when it comes to the books they accept because they really don’t have all that much shelf space for more used books whenever I go, which is awesome. The only “bad” thing is when they have books out before their release date because people donate ARCs or early final copies and they don’t seem to pay attention.

        Yes, library book sales are awesome! I got the entire Chronicles of Prydain series in hardcover, along with I believe five other books at one early this year for only $2 because they were doing a $2/bag sale. Absolutely incredible!

  10. It has become very popular to hate on Amazon, all the hipsters are doing it. I’m glad that people are pushing the indie bookstore love, but it isn’t convenient for all. The important thing is you shop where you can, and you get your beloved books in your hands, right? 🙂

    • Stormy

      I think so! I do think Amazon has some shady business practices, like the Hachette thing. . . but seriously, B&N did the *same* thing with Simon & Schuster last summer. It’s not limited to just Amazon.

  11. I have exactly the same problem! I would LOVE to support independent book stores… But the only way to get a good selection of English books (I live in the Netherlands) is to order them from Amazon. Or at The Book Depository, who are owned by Amazon. Most independent book stores in the UK, or cool initiatives that give an amount of revenue to support bookstores, don’t ship internationally.

    Though I think if you don’t have a local independent book store, it’s also good to buy at the chains. Even the big book chains are having troubles competing with Amazon, with all those book stores closing up. Supporting independent ones is better for diversity, but if the choice is between ordering online, or help a brick and mortar book store that’s struggling… I’d shop at B&N guilt-free (:

    • Stormy

      Oh yes, I can see how trying to order internationally really limits your options.
      That’s a good point about the chains–I would love to shop at indies but I can still support the chains just to spread my book money around a little bit. I definitely want the chains in my town to stay open.

  12. La La in the LiBrArY

    Your “local” indie bookstore would actually be the one closest to you. Until five years ago my closest indie was 45 minutes away, but I managed to get there at least twice a year. In the spring for birthday gifts and in the fall for holiday presents.

    • Stormy

      That’s a good schedule! I do enjoy stopping at indies when I drive to my hometown to see my family–I often take alternative routes, but sometimes I go through the major cities just to stop at the stores.

  13. Isn’t Hastings wonderful? I’ve gone to one in Greenville, TX a couple of times and always enjoyed looking around, especially since they have items I don’t normally see in stores! 😀

    I’m in much of the same situation in Alabama. We have an independent used book store but it’s only for paperbacks and mostly romance novels… :/ The university supply stores have books too but not the best selection. Our B&N is alright but I don’t have a car, so it’s hard to always go. I wish I could go to an independent book store easily :/ I really loved going to Octavia Books in NOLA back in February but that’s a rare occurrence for me.

    • Stormy

      LOVE Hastings. The one in my town is in a bit of a need of an update, but it’s still my favorite place to buy books. At least here, they have a MUCH more diverse selection than B&N(though B&N is definitely better for new releases–I’ve learned how to navigate the bookstores in this town!)

      Texas has some awesome independent bookstores, but none that don’t require a *planned* trip. I love going to them when I get the chance, but they’re all an hour+ from me.

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