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Reasons to shop at your local independent bookstores this Christmas

 

We were home during the Christmas shopping season and had a lot of talk about the issues of supplies, staffing and delivery delays plaguing stores during the busiest time of year. This is all true, but I want to take a moment to look at a special item that is often overlooked in the grocery store.

The Independent Bookstore. In short, they want our business to go beyond vacations. Independent bookstores have done a great job of weathering the global epidemic, with just 84 closures nationwide between January 2020 and May 2021. 

Many important factors have helped them survive, including paid services, GoFundMe advertising and increased online sales based on multiple readers when closed (one of the few good things about shutdowns). But now, 18 months later, things are not the same. When the country reopened, many online consumers favored by independent bookstores disappeared due to money spent on other activities. 

Watching the latest Marvel movies in theaters, attending concerts, and dining in restaurants after months of isolation and shutdown should be considered, but that's still tough for an industrial model with thin edges at its best. 

One of the places where this is particularly difficult is selling books online at sites that have helped them get through their first year of transmission. Due to labor strikes and longer delivery times, in November, many independent companies announced that consumers would have to order from December 1 to guarantee delivery on Christmas Eve. 

The problem with this (which I can admit from previous bookstores) is that most books are definitive giveaways. People focus on gadgets and other expensive giveaways during Black Friday, Cyber   Monday, and mid-December. That said, if you check out your favorite freelance website today, you will see a warning that Christmas delivery is not guaranteed. 

It also leads to free trade of sorts, with multiple delivery of books anywhere or a jump to Amazon's website which guarantees delivery 10 minutes before ordering. I beg not to step out of indie when they need us most. If you're lucky enough to be near a good independent bookstore, that's no real problem. Denver, Ann Arbor, and Athens residents can stop by Tattered Cover, Literati, or Avid Bookshop as a customer. But what if, like me, you live more than 40 kilometers from the nearest independent bookstore? Simplicity: make your trip special. I know we grew up delivering everything from groceries to furniture and books, right to our home by car, bike or drone. 

Many of us have become more Christians than the desert of old. But to keep the bookstore afloat when things finally get back to normal, you need to support the bookstore at the most important time of the year. There are many good financial reasons to support these and other independent retailers. Numerous studies have shown that local retailers invest more of their income from sales to the community than businesses. 

They also hire more locals because the administrative work is done on-site rather than in another state. They are used twice as much for other local businesses such as chains (run local banks, hire local cashiers, lawyers, designers and other professionals, more local media and can order products from local businesses). Finally, on average, local retailers donate more to local organizations and community organizations than grocery stores. 

But if you are a book lover, it goes beyond the financial implications. If you've spent any time in the freelance bookstore, you know that the relationship between book buyers and bookstores goes far beyond the superficial level of love for books. They are usually friends. Independent bookstores also urge us to slow down, which we usually don't. We are looking for names. We delay and find out, in the best case scenario, that we've never seen before, that we haven't looked for, that it happens on time. Here is the book. Because books are typically purchased by owners and approved by consumers rather than a central office, independent bookstores have a community and local consumer attitude. Barnes & Noble in Dallas is almost identical to Sacramento, Boston or Atlanta. 

On the other hand, each independent bookstore is unique. They are usually at risk of survival, and the risk is beneficial. Bringing in new collections of short stories from Moroccan writers is more fun than buying another new James Patterson that you can get at Walmart. Books from local independent bookstores can change the way you interact with the world. I saw it coming. I quietly watched with pleasure a 60-year-old lifelong conservative, a 19-year-old die-hard liberal, and a 25-minute silent chat about the feelings of Roberto Bolano's savage sleuths. 

Today we live in a world where not only can we be friends if we disagree on even the most important political issues, but we also have to hate each other. It rarely shows any similarities, and it's really great when it does. Finding something similar with someone at the bookstore is no exception. It's correct. If you can communicate with someone about something you love as much as a book, you'll see them as your enemy, even if you don't agree with anything else. It's just the start, but I think every start is good today. Independent bookstores offer all of this and more. If you give the bookstore a fair price for an enchilada dinner, you return it, as Christopher Morley writes in Parnassus on Wheels, "12 ounces of paper, ink and weed containing the world." Better yet, at the same time, you can build a relationship with a real person. It is worth driving a few more miles this Christmas.