Here’s something that might surprise you: Despite the fact that the U.S. economy is suffering more than it ever has in living memory, book sales have risen more than 6 percent so far this year compared with last year, according to NPD BookScan. Much of this boost is because more parents have been tasked with teaching their children at home, as well as piqued interest in educational titles on antiracism as protests for racial justice have dominated national discourse. However, most of these purchases didn’t go through local and independent bookstores — rather, through online retailers that have dominated the market in the last decade (especially a certain behemoth that rhymes with “Blamazon”).
There’s no other way to put it: Bookstores need help — especially indies. According to the American Booksellers Association, more than one independent bookstore has closed each week since the pandemic began, and 20 percent of independent bookstores across the country are in danger of closing. In contrast, spending on Amazon this summer was up 60% from the same time frame last year. But while being more mindful of where we spend money on books is one way to support smaller shops in need, there are a handful of other ways to do our part in helping to keep indie bookstores alive.
To find out exactly how to best go about it, we went right to the source, and asked local and indie bookstores around the country for their advice for people who seek to do what they can to give their support. Especially in these turbulent times, when everything seems pretty bleak, it's important to invest in and hold on tight to the things that bring us joy and knit our communities together.
“Right now, I would encourage you to think about the places in the world that sustain you, make you feel good, stimulate your intellect and senses,” says Stacey of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers in San Francisco, California. “If that’s an independent bookstore, a cafe or restaurant, now is the time to figure out how to support them so that they’ll be there for you to visit once the pandemic is over.”