Indie Bookstores the Mark of Vibrant Towns
- by Carole McKellar
Books have excited me since childhood, so bookstores and libraries are high on my list of favorite places. I feel the thrill of possibility when I walk into a bookstore. I admit I’m immoderate when buying books, but a house filled with them just feels like home. This month I’d like to discuss bookstores.
Independent bookstores fight for market share. Their total demise was predicted over a decade ago, The big box bookstores and online giants seemed poised to annihilate small, locally owned shops. Do you remember the finale of the movie, ‘You’ve Got Mail’? Meg Ryan lost her lovely little book shop to Tom Hanks’ megastore, but she managed to fall in love with him. Real life has not always offered that consolation to booksellers.
Encouragingly, the American Booksellers Association reports that the number of independent bookstore in the U.S. has grown by 19.3 percent since 2009. However, the current total is slightly less than half the number at its peak in the 1990s. Recent gains are partly due to the ‘shop local’ movement, but the advantages of independent bookshops are real and numerous.
Browsing small, intimate bookshops is satisfying on several levels. They are generally warm and inviting visually. Books are colorful and artistic. Reading the synopsis and reviews on the dust jackets promises riches within. Holding books in your hands invites you to participate in something that has enthralled humans for hundreds of years. It is impossible to have the same experience visually and tactilely surfing the web.
Mississippi has two bookstores that regularly gain national attention. Lemuria in Jackson is one of the finest bookstores I’ve ever been in. Square Books in Oxford is a ‘must’ for Oxford visitors. Nearby New Orleans has three independents that are regular stops for me. In addition, the French Quarter has three used book shops that are treasures. To find their names and others in each state, go to www.newpages.com or www.indiebound.org.
Successful small businesses make vibrant towns. Shop our independent bookstores to keep dollars and this valuable service in our community. Our local bookstores deserve our support because they enrich all of our lives.