In the county where I live, there are no bookstores at all, indie or otherwise. In the decades I have lived here, I can’t remember there ever being one. If you want a book, you can hope the local Wal-Mart or CVS might carry it, or that someone might’ve donated it to the charity shop, but otherwise, you’ll have to look elsewhere. It’s difficult to pin down the exact ramifications of not having a bookstore of any kind in our area, and it feels a bit like a “chicken or the egg” scenario: do we not have bookstores because we are statistically so uneducated or are we so uneducated because we don’t have bookstores? I’m uncertain about what the truth might be. It seems fair to assert, though, that the lack of one has been detrimental to those who live here, and particularly to those who grow up here.
For a long time, this lack of a bookstore meant that most book buying occurred over the internet, usually from places such as Barnes and Noble or Amazon. In recent years, though, the capability of smaller bookstores to compete with big stores has increased. The development of Libro.FM and Bookshop.org have made it possible for me to support somewhat local bookstores through my physical and audiobook purchases. I have tried to support these in my capacity as a writer and reader, as well: I am a member of the Libro.FM Influencer program and am an affiliate for Bookshop.org and promote the use of them through my public accounts. I can’t remember who said this, but somewhere online I read a statement that went something like: “Buy that book from an indie bookseller. You don’t need it in two days” – referencing Amazon’s Prime shipping, of course – “you aren’t going to read it for six months, anyway.” It made me laugh. In many cases, that’s the truth.
Though our county doesn’t boast any bookstores, a couple of our neighboring counties do or have at times over the years. I remember in high school having a field trip to a bookstore in the next county over. I think it must’ve been for our honors English class, or perhaps a gifted trip. It seemed to me like something you’d see on television, the background setting for a group of college students. It was very dark, I remember, and it had a very earthy ambience. It had a front section that had shelves and shelves of books artfully arranged, but in the back, there was a coffee shop that served a number of decadent dishes (or so they seemed in my childhood).
I don’t know when they went out of business. Likely, it was when I was away at college, but especially after what we read this week, it isn’t surprising that it did. From the details of costs of running a bookshop versus the profits of one, it seems miraculous that anyone ever manages to successfully do so. Things such as Bookshop.org and Libro.FM certainly help, though. There is a new independent bookstore in our neighboring county now, and I am linked to it through my accounts though I have never set foot there.