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FIGHTING FOR INDEPENDENTS: BOOK SERENITY

No, this isn’t a Firefly post.

With the demise of Borders, and the “iffy” future of Barnes & Noble, many book buyers who love to frequent brick-and-mortar stores are nervous about what is to come. Will they have to buy every print book online? (Well, there are those discounts, and fast shipping.) Will they soon have to read everything in e-format?

How can a traditioanl paper book buyer find any peace?

A while back I contributed to a special section in Locus magazine about the small press and independent press. One of the questions asked about the future of publishing, and I have always thought that when the big chain stores go out of business, we’ll see a rise in the independent bookstore. Indeed, the early numbers are already bearing out that idea. Chains put a lot of the independent bookstores out of business. Amazon, ebook retailers, and other onlilne venues had a part to play in crippling the chains. So why not bring back the independents?

Just today I had lunch with my sister in my hometown of Kalispell, Montana, and afterward she took me across the street to their new bookstore. Before this, the city of Kalispell had a big Borders. It did indeed drive my sister (and others) crazy not being able to go inside a bookstore to browse. Now here was this independent store (Bookworks). Small, cozy, limited selection, but it absolutely bled charm. They knew my sister by name. They told her the book she’d ordered was on its way, and apologized for the delay. Granted, the science fiction section, tiny by most stores’ standards, had a lot of big name fantasy authors (Butcher, Martin, Brooks, etc), and a bunch of Orson Scott Card, some classic authors, and a few odds and ends. But there were some nice surprises. I saw a book on the shelf from a friend of mine, and one of the owners said those books were doing well for them. (I actually ended up buying something from the mystery section, Craig Johnson’s The Cold Dish, the first book in his Longmire series.)

There’s something to be said for the homegrown experience. Sure you’re paying full price for books. Sure you’re waiting a little longer for special orders. But in my opinion, nothing beats a good tour of a cozy bookstore. My sister didn’t hesitate to mention my book coming next summer from Tor. The owner said, “Oh, science fiction or fantasy?” She knew the imprint. She asked me for the title, and told my sister to make sure to remind them when it got closer to the pub date.

A friend of mine has a local bookstore he goes to in his hometown of Sumner, Washington. They know him by name. He orders books through them. They also have a thriving online business, which keeps the brick-and-mortar store going.

Don’t you wish you all had a corner independent bookstore just around the corner from you? Total serenity.

If you are one of the lucky ones who has the cool bookstore nearby, it’d be fun to hear about it in comments.