Independent Bookstores Appear to Be on the Rise

October 1, 2014

According to Kevin O’Kelley, a librarian and blogger over at the Huffington Post, independent bookstores are making a comeback.

The American Booksellers Association (ABA) thinks so. According to ABA’s recent figures, its membership has risen from 1,632 last year to 1,664 as of last May, which is up 200 since 2009, the last low point (since the 1990s peak of about 4,000). The steady 19+ percent increase has persisted for the last five years despite a fragile economy and competition from big-box retailers like Barnes & Noble, Borders (at one point in time), and Amazon’s giant bookselling market.

ABA CEO Oren Teicher said in an interview with the Associated Press that the rise is due to the “Buy Local” movement; consumers are turning away from big bookstores and e-book sales are stagnating. “To be sure, owning and operating an indie bookstore remains full of challenges, and things in the book business continue to change incredibly quickly,” he said. “But while it may very well once have been true that in retail bigger was always better, I think our recent history proves otherwise.”

Also, as O’Kelley explains, new indie booksellers continue to crop up. “The biggest reason independent bookstores are still around is that the store closures of the previous decade alerted people to what they were in danger of losing,” he writes.

Indeed, Emily Powell, president and third-generation owner of Powell’s Books, an independent bookseller based in Portland, Oregon, claimed in an article she wrote for the New York Times that successful booksellers offer spaces where communities naturally congregate:

“Book lover or not, we all want places to go where our needs are met, and we feel spoken to as unique, interesting, valuable humans. We crave places that enrich and nourish us. The best independent bookstores are doing that.”


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