The fight for independence

Originally posted 8/5/2009

I love used bookstores. I savor the smell of those old, mildewed pages, crisp with age and ripe with knowledge. I always wonder how wise those booksellers are, if they tire of their job, or if they relish the fact that they are constantly surrounded by hundreds of books.

I also love independent bookstores. When I walk into Village Books in Bellingham, WA, or Spellbinder Books in Bishop, CA, I feel at home. When I was a child, I would walk straight to the children’s books section and read the stories until my dad told me it was time to go. Now I mosey around the bestseller and non-fiction shelves, wondering if someday my name will be on a “Staff-Picks” sticker.

More often, however, I wonder if my name will ever make it into an independent bookstore. At the rate Amazon.com is selling books, my name may only be subject to internet searches.

Although I understand the benefits of online shopping, with books, it’s a different story. I will always spend the money and the time at an independent bookstore so it can remain stitched in the fabric of the American bookselling tradition. I would hate to see the day when Amazon.com and book franchises like Borders become the only options for buying books.

I saw this poster recently and decided more people should have the opportunity to read it. Although it’s distributed by the California Independent Booksellers Association, I know it pertains to independent bookstores across the nation. Here it is:

Number of in-store author appearances last year:

California Independent Bookstores—4,000

Amazon.com—0

Amount of donations to local community organizations last year:

CIB– $100,000

Amazon.com—0

Number of local people employed:

CIB—over 3,000

Amazon.com—0

Sales taxes collected and paid to support schools, social services and public agencies last year:

CIB—over $10 million

Amazon.com—0

Rather than the big franchises or online options, independent bookstores are the businesses truly committed to the art of writing, the joy of reading, and the passion of bookselling.

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About devon

Devon Fredericksen is a freelance writer who specializes in environmental issues, social justice, and book reviews. Her work has been published in Indian Country Today Media Network, The Sheet, Eastside Magazine, The Planet, The Western Front, and Huxley College's book, Green Fire, a collection of environmental profiles. She holds B.A. degrees in environmental journalism and Spanish from Western Washington University. She currently lives in Bishop, CA.
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