Ann Patchett surprised (and thrilled) many when she announced that she planned to open up an independent bookstore in Nashville, Tennessee. In an interview with NPR’s Diane Rehm, Patchett explains her reason for the new venture:
[Nashville has] used bookstores, but the closest Barnes and Noble is 20 miles outside of town. And, …I can’t live in a city that doesn’t have a bookstore. . . . The bookstores that closed in Nashville…were both over 30,000 square feet…it’s kind of this model for what’s gone on in our country in so many different ways. We just super-sized. We got bigger and bigger and bigger. . . . We can’t sustain a 30,000 foot bookstore, but we really can sustain a 3,000 square foot store. *
This post isn’t meant to dig on Amazon or Barnes and Noble; there is value in those stores as well. But, independent bookstores provide a different kind of environment that I treasure, a smaller more intimate venue, where readers and writers come together.
It was at Next Chapter Book Shop, an independent store in my area, where I saw two of my favorite authors, Beth Hoffman and Rebecca Rasmussen. I’d read both their books before I attended their readings. And, I’d already seen Rebecca at an independent store in Illinois the week before I saw her at Next Chapter (I worried a bit that Rebecca might think I was stalking her when I showed up at yet another of her readings). But, I wouldn’t have missed either author’s event.
Rebecca read from one of my favorite chapters in her novel and illustrated the main reason I love these kinds of events at smaller stores: I heard the author herself read the words of The Bird Sisters out loud, sans mic, just a few feet in front of me, which added another dimension to – and a deeper experience of – her novel. It was the same when I heard Beth Hoffman read the first chapter of hers, Saving Cee Cee Honeycutt. Plus, meeting both Beth and Rebecca at smaller reading events allowed me to talk with them a little longer afterward.
It’s possible I could have had the same experience at a national chain. But, in a recent newsletter from Next Chapter Book Shop, the owner, Lanora Haradon Hurley, lists more reasons to support your independent store (a list that originated from Indiebound.org). Here are just a few:
When you buy local…
…You nurture community. We know you, and you know us. Studies have shown that local businesses donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of chains.
…You create more choice. We pick the items we sell based on what we know you like and want. Local businesses carry a wider array of unique products because we buy for our own individual market.
…You make us a destination. The more interesting and unique we are as a community, the more we will attract new neighbors, visitors, and guests. This benefits everyone!
These reasons, along with the old adage that less is more, make it clear why, even if we have an account with Amazon or shop at Barnes and Noble, we should still stop in at the independent bookstores in our neighborhoods. In doing so, we invest in our own communities and support those authors who take the time to stop at these stores during book tours, even when the audiences may be small in numbers.
What’s the name of your favorite independent bookstore? And, is that where you met your favorite author?
In the Milwaukee Metropolitan area, we’re lucky to have more than one independent. Visit them all:
* The above quote was taken from an article in The Nashville Scene, which quotes the NPR interview as well.