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The Importance of Independent Bookstores

Cindy Burnett
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Strand Bookstore

On her most recent visit to New York City, Cindy Burnett visited the iconic Strand Bookstore to pick out some new books. 

The pandemic reinforced the importance of shopping both local and independent and how and why it is important to keep these types of businesses around. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the book world. Local bookstores provide so much to the surrounding community: books (of course), a place to gather, fellowship, book clubs, author events, and so much more. 

In the book world, the greatest threat to local bookstores is Amazon. Because of its size, the deals it forces on publishers, and its lack of store fronts, the company can afford to deeply discount books and make up the money elsewhere. However, what Amazon lacks is knowledge about those books, the ability to create a human connection and develop relationships with customers, and people to help you find just the right book for you. Local bookstores can do all of those things, and they do them well. If you are in Houston, consider shopping at Blue Willow Bookshop, Murder by the Book, Brazos Bookstore, and/or Kaboom Books, and helping these wonderful stores remain an important and vital part of our community. 

As summer approaches and people head out on vacation, a fun thing to do is stop in at the local bookstores where you are vacationing. That is a great way to find new books and to get a sense for that place and discover local interest books and items as well. I have found so many beautiful bookshops and great reads during my travels.

If you prefer to shop online, these local stores can accommodate that. Another great online option is Bookshop.org, which usually has books discounted by 10 percent and supports independent bookstores around the country by giving them a percentage of its sales. To date, the company has given over $20 million to bookstores.

If you like to listen to books, a great option is Libro.fm. Using a monthly membership model similar to Audible’s (except that you pick a bookstore to support with your purchases), the company offers thousands and thousands of audiobooks to its members, and you can also pay by the audiobook if you prefer. The company’s purpose is to support independent bookstores, and it partners with stores all over the United States in order to do so. Libro.fm has fabulous audiobook reviews by booksellers, playlists created by booksellers, and much more. They have also created “Your Guide to Independent Alternatives to Books, Audiobooks, eBooks and Beyond” which provides a comprehensive list of ways people can support bookstores and why it is so important. If you want to learn more about what a fabulous company Libro.fm is, I interviewed founder and CEO Mark Pearson, who lives in Austin, about the company. After listening, you will become a forever fan.

In today’s world, it is important to understand where our money goes, who it supports, and the difference it can make. Focusing on local bookstores and the companies that support is a great way to do so.

For more book recommendations and bookish thoughts, see Cindy’s monthly Buzz Reads column, her Thoughts from a Page Podcast or follow @ThoughtsFromaPage on Instagram. Find upcoming Conversations from a Page events here.

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