The Independent Bookstore is Not Dead

Author Ann Patchett has a piece in the newest issue of The Atlantic explaining why and how she opened up a bookstore in Nashville, Tenn. after the two bookstores in the city shuttered its doors. Patchett says her bookstore has found success because it offers something that websites like Amazon lack: a community—a place where children can come to learn and play, where writers can give talks, sign books and give recommendations (Patchett herself recommends lots of books to customers), and where people feel like they’re at home (the store has two dogs, and a piano).

I’m sure the success of the store also has a lot to do with Patchett’s celebrity (for many of the same reasons Nora Roberts’s local businesses have found success). Patchett was able to open her checkbook to get her bookstore funded, and because she’s who she is, she was invited on The Colbert Report to talk about her bookstore, was able to ask Jonathan Franzen and other writers to come to the store, and the bookstore’s opening made the A1 section of The New York Times. She acknowledges all of this, and understands that she’s lucky, but if the brick and mortar independent bookstore were truly dying, no amount of celebrity could bring it back to life. It’s also nice to know that Amazon isn’t holding all of the cards.

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10 Comments / Post A Comment

blair (#1,962)

One of my favorite independent bookstores is Uncharted Books in Chicago, which definitely owes its success to being a community hub as well as a place to get books. It was Kickstarted to begin with, I found out about it on Reddit, then Tumblr had a meetup there for writers, and now it hosts everything from poetry readings to comedy shows to game nights (every Wednesday!) so it’s pretty much as social network-y as you can be, both on- and off-line. The owner is a really cool dude and NOT EVEN FAMOUS like Nora Roberts AND it’s the down the street from an indie theater that lets you drink while you see movies and my favorite barrestaurant in town.

Wait do I miss Chicago, what

@blair I miss Chicago and I’ve never even lived there :/

Keck (#2,466)

@blair Printers Row! The yearly book sale is what I miss most about Chicago.

anecdata (#2,683)
Lily Rowan (#70)

@anecdata Cambridge is full of independent bookstores — some of them must be doing ok, right?

nevertooyoung (#961)

@Lily Rowan location, location, location: the successful stores are all in Harvard Square. Lorem Ipsum is… not so convenient for most Cambridge residents, especially those without cars.

anecdata (#2,683)

@Lily Rowan I should maybe add that Lorem Ipsum is a used bookstore, which is probably its own category.

Mostly I thought that the way the store owner tried to approach his business model in different ways- internet pricing, for example- was interesting. Also it’s my local bookstore, so I’m sorry to see it go.

Lily Rowan (#70)

Harvard has used books, there’s that one in Central…. Porter Square books doesn’t have used books but (looks like) another successful independent bookstore.

But yeah, Lorem Ipsum’s seemed like an interesting approach, and it’s always sad to lose a local bookstore!

anecdata (#2,683)

@Lily Rowan I love Rodney’s! I’ve gotten some of my best weird books there (“Oral Sadism and the Vegetarian Personality”; “A Random Walk Through Fractal Dimensions”).

@nevertooyoung Yeah, Inman is kind of a pain to get to, though I love it.

Porter Square Books gets way too much of my money, and it always has people in it – at the cafe, browsing, kids in the back. I’ve been to a reading that was really well attended, too.

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