2011 at 5am Posted by Rebecca Joines Schinsky
Yesterday’s post about Borders’ bankruptcy and the reminder it brought that where we buy our books matters triggered wonderful discussions here and on Twitter (and in my poor email inbox, which is still quivering in the corner) about what we as readers—as consumers—can do to support bookstores and help them thrive. The first and most obvious action is the one I mentioned yesterday: do your book buying in actual bookstores. Or, as my pal Ron Hogan said so succinctly, leave the house!
But getting your butt off the couch and into the bookstore isn’t the only thing you can do.
Attend events. A bookstore’s ability to secure authors for readings and signings often hinges on its ability to demonstrate that it can attract an audience and that the audience will—wait for it—buy books! If you are fortunate enough to live near a store that currently offers author events, go check a few of them out. Take a friend. If, after hearing the author speak, it turns out that you’re not all that interested in his or her book, pick out something else to purchase instead. Try not to view author events as free entertainment; the store may not be charging admission, but they have to see profit from events in order to continue making them available to the community.
Ask your local organizations to support local bookstores. If your church, community center, book club, writer’s circle, knitting group, Junior League, or Underwater Basket Weavers’ Association is holding an event related to a book or has invited an author to speak, and you want to have books sold during the event, reach out to an independent bookstore first (if there is one reasonably close by). You may not get quite the discount or donation a big box store can offer, but you’ll be putting dollars back into your local economy and supporting individuals and a business that make your community a richer, more vibrant place to live.
Go indie for e-books. Thanks to a partnership between the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and Google, many independent bookstores now offer e-books on their websites. If you’d prefer to spend your book dollars on digital editions, you are no longer limited to buying from a superginormous chain (unless you read e-books on a Kindle, in which case I assume you’ve already discovered the limitations for book purchasing). You’re going to buy the e-book anyway, so you may as well buy it from an independent bookstore and, again, put those dollars back into your community. Want to buy your e-books indie but don’t have a store nearby? Check IndieBound for listings or pay an e-visit to my friends at Fountain Bookstore.
Remove the phrase “No thanks, I’ll just order it when I get home” from your vocabulary. Most booksellers are too polite to say so to your face, but this is beyond rude. Bookstores are STORES and they exist to SELL you books, not to provide you with personalized recommendations and a place to browse before you go home and shop in your underwear. When booksellers look up titles, recommend books, and offer to place orders for you, they are providing a service, and it is not a service they intend to provide for free. You pay for this service by purchasing items from their stores. If you absolutely must browse in-store but buy online, have the decency not to tell the bookseller that’s what you’re doing. It’s awful for morale, and it makes you look like an ass. And for god’s sake, don’t stand in front of a bookseller, show her your phone, and say, “No worries, I just ordered it from Amazon.”
Tell your friends. Think of your bookstore the same way you think about that fabulous new restaurant you went to last week and can’t stop talking about. When you have a great experience or make a wonderful discovery there, tell people about it. (And when you don’t, take a minute to provide constructive feedback. Most businesspeople, booksellers included, will appreciate it.) Don’t assume that someone else is doing it so you don’t have to. And if you have an online platform (a blog, Tumblr, Facebook page, Twitter account), leverage it to support a bookstore you believe in. Throw your weight behind something you care about and want to see succeed, and do it in a way that is authentically you.
I know there must be more. You tell me: what else?