Don’t Do These 5 Things if You Want to Prevent Bookstores From Becoming a Thing of the Past

Your powerful peace actions:
→ Buy local → Know you are powerful beyond measure

I love books – new books, used books, hardback, and paperback. And likewise, I love bookstores. I love grabbing a cup of chai and flipping through the endless plots lines, devious characters, and personal development techniques.

At the same time, I must confess I love my Kindle. I’ve become very accustomed to the instant gratification of downloading the exact title I want, the second I want it, and only tapping the screen to flip the page.

In fact, I’m to the point now where I find reading “old fashioned books” cumbersome to hold and time consuming because I have to manually turn each page. But wait a minute, I just said that I love books and bookstores…and I do! Allow me to explain.

I was recently in London and came across an HMV store that was having a huge going out of business sale. I entered and began perusing the rows of music CDs and recalled how much I loved admiring album covers and browsing song lists. I realized how much I missed music shops.

With the exception of record collectors, the music world has moved almost exclusively to the online world. And the “don’t fight technology, learn to live with it” side of me is OK with that, but now only a hand-full of online mega-giants own the entire music market. If I need a new jam, I reflexively head to iTunes and wouldn’t even know where else to look.

And even though HMV was a giant chain, I was sad to see it closing its brick and mortar doors. It felt like the end of an era.

A similar trend has been occurring in the book world. Over 1,000 bookstores went out of business in the U.S. from 2000-2007. Since 2007, hundreds more have closed, including 600 Borders stores.

But bookstores are hanging on, and independent bookstores even saw a growth in sales in the past few years. People still want to read physical books, buy books, give books as gifts, and include books on their Christmas lists.

A few of my favorite independent bookstores in the U.S. are Politics & Prose in Washington, DC, Strand in New York City, and Powell’s Books in Portland Oregon. But these are the more famous. The even more alluring independent bookstores are the tiny little shops with only a few choice titles to flip through.

You can help the independent bookseller continue to grow and ensure that what has happened to the record shop never happens to the bookstore. But we need to monitor where we spend our money. Amazon.com now owns 22.6% of the book market. And yes, I love my Kinder e-reader, but I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to support independent bookstores.

To my mind it’s NEVER a good thing for any one company to get too big. So, a prime pillar to peace in your life and the world is to share the wealth.

Take action! Here are 5 things not to do if you want to save the independent bookstore:

  • DON’T throw away your e-Reader (you couldn’t pry my Kindle out of my hands), but make a consistent effort to support locally owned, independent bookstores and don’t forget about the pubic libraries. Public libraries are also starting to lend out downloads, so instead of reflexively giving your business to Amazon.com, check out your local library.
  • DON’T neglect how a paper book expands your reading experience. As I mentioned, now that I’ve grown accustomed to my Kindle, physical books can feel awkward. But I’m a firm believer that paper books hold the energy of the story’s essence and this essence is somewhat lost on a digital device. In fact, I often save the books I’m most looking forward to reading to a paper book.
  • DON’T make all of your book purchases from Barnes and Nobles or Amazon.com.
    They are big and convenient, but don’t forget to share the love. I was looking for a new book to read when I was traveling through Rapid, SD, and stumbled upon Mitzi’s Books, which was a delightful little independent bookstore with an impressive selection. Not only did I leave the store with a great book, I just felt good for giving Mitzi my business.
  • DON’T be a slave to instant gratification. One of the things I love about my Kindle is that I get the book I want the nanosecond after I desire it with the tap of my finger. But from time to time exercise patience (talking to myself here), and see what independent bookstores have it in stock. Most booksellers are also willing to special order just about anything for you.
  • DON’T underestimate how much POWER you have with your dollar. Studies are showing that the Buy Local movement and the closing of the giant chain Borders has boosted the independent bookstore. This means your dollar has the power to save bookstores from suffering the fate of record shops.

Take action! Make an effort to find the independent booksellers nearest you, if you don’t already know, and pay them a visit.

Your thoughts?  What are your thoughts on independent bookstores? Do you miss music stores? How have you supported bookstores or independent sellers? What are you reading now or what’s on your reading list? Post your comments below.

My Reading List:

  • Just completed: “The Signature of All Things,” by Elizabeth Gilbert. Great read, especially if you love botany. Gilbert proves that she is a skilled writer and that “Eat, Pray, Love” was not a one-hit wonder (purchased on my Kindle).
  • Now reading: “Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaiming Your True Nature,” by Martha Beck. Loving this book – full of great insight. My favorite part thus far has been a story Beck tells about a man who lives in the Appalachian Mountains who dresses up in camouflage every hunting season to chase the animals away from the hunters (checked out from the library).
  • Next on my list: “The Four Agreements,” by Don Miguel Ruiz. I haven’t heard anything negative about this book (purchased from an independent bookstore).

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Remember, it’s the little changes you make in your daily life that brings greater peace to the whole.

2 replies
  1. Brennan Smith
    Brennan Smith says:

    I knew some great indie bookstores in my previous town, but ever since moving to my new town (a full year ago) I’ve been having Amazon send me everything. Thanks for the great inspiration to seek out indie stores in my new place.

    Book recommendations:
    2013 Best Non-Fiction I read: “The Art of Learning,” by Josh Waitzkin (the chess prodigy about whom they made the ’93 film “Searching for Bobby Fischer.” He has now gone on to win multiple international and national martial arts titles, and he talks about how to be great at anything you choose to learn).
    2013 Best Fiction I read: “A Dance with Dragons.” Yep, I’m hooked on the series.
    Current non-fiction title is Richard Barrett’s “The Values-Driven Organization,” all about creating transformational culture change within org’s.
    Current fiction is “Ishmael,” now 20 years old but still world-shifting and deeply spiritually fulfilling.

    Reply
    • Allyson
      Allyson says:

      As always, fabulous comment, Brennan! I hear what you’re saying. I live in Europe, so I’ve been very dependent on Amazon to send me books, among other things. And although majorly convenient, I wrote this blog post because I feel strongly about the issue but also to inspire me to adopt more mindful book purchasing practices. And thanks for including your reading list. They sounds great. Ishmael is one of my favorites.

      Reply

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