by Jason Crane, Webster’s Bookstore Cafe, State College PA
Look, we all shop online and at big box bookstores. You do it, I do it. But whenever possible, I buy my books from an independent local bookstore. Why? Funny you should ask, because I just happen to have written this list of reasons:
1. Book people work and shop at indie bookstores. Your local bookstore is guaranteed to have a nice gang of quirky booklovers on both sides of the counter. You’ll find staff who’ll be thrilled to help you find books you’ll like, and you’ll more than likely strike up a conversation at the counter or in the aisles with somebody who’s interesting and worth talking to. Not feeling social? No worries, because indie bookstores are the kinds of places with nooks and crannies where you can get lost in a book and nobody thinks it’s weird. We love books, too.
2. You’ll find things you can’t find at a big box store, and won’t think to look for online. Indie bookstores, whether they sell used books or new, will have a very particular stock. Sure, they’ll probably have the stuff everyone is reading, but they’ll also have books you just plain won’t see at your airplane-hangar-sized retail giant. And no amount of clicking links at an online retailer can replace the thrill of browsing the aisles and coming across that perfect book you didn’t even know you needed. At Webster’s, we have rare editions and books from university collections and all kinds of things that aren’t for sale most places.
3. Your money stays in your community. I don’t know where Mr. Barnes and Mr. Noble and Ms. Amazon live, but I’m pretty sure it isn’t State College, PA or Tucson, AZ, or Rochester, NY or Oxford, MS. All these towns (and hundreds of others) have indie bookstores. When you buy a book at one of these stores, your money is helping keep local people employed and helping save one more storefront from the onslaught of the Big Boxes.
4. Kids love bookstores and bookstores love kids. Trust me. Take your child to a used bookstore, point them at the children’s section, and let them explore. They’ll find an armload of treasures that you’d never think to get for them, every one of which will last for more hours than a plastic trinket based on a TV show. Plus most indie bookstores, including the one where I work, have activities aimed at kids, from storytime to tea parties. Start your kids reading now and they’ll stick with it for the rest of their lives.
5. Bookstores are the cultural heart of communities with bookstores. From poetry readings and book signings to open mics and acoustic concerts, bookstores tend to be where cultural events happen. Looking for local artists and musicians and actors and writers? Look no further than your local indie bookstore. Each time I move to a new town, I go immediately to the local bookstore to meet all the wonderful people who congregate there and to find out what’s happening in town.