We've been hearing stories for several years now about the "death" of independent bookstores, and this article from the Tribune highlights challenges for several bookstores in town. I hope the prognosticators are proven wrong.

We are fortunate to live within blocks of Powell's, which makes it easy to fulfill our literary needs or kill a rainy afternoon just perusing the stacks. Browsing through a mega-chain just isn't the same experience, because the range of books offered is much narrower and makes it less likely for a random discovery to occur. (And then there's the personalized service!!!)

Independent bookstores are showing some signs of life. As the article points out, the American Booksellers Association (ABA) has seen its membership increase by over 100 stores in each of the last 3 years. While doing a little research for this post, I came across this graph that shows job trends for independent bookstores. After declining sharply in 2007, independent bookstores started hiring again in 2008. These are good signs, but independent stores still have challenges competing against mega-stores and online book vendors.

To provide more support to independent booksellers, the ABA has launched IndieBound, a program to "tap into a growing national movement, creating new and interesting ways for independent booksellers and other independent businesses to better communicate their core strengths—independence, passion, community—to their customers."

"America has clearly reached a tipping point—people are choosing Main Street over malls. Nationwide, people are renewing their ties to friends, neighbors, and institutions in their cities and towns," said ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, "Independent booksellers have long been valued community centers for culture, connection, and fun, and through IndieBound we believe that booksellers and other indie retailers are at the forefront of a movement that is already being embraced by shoppers."

This movement fits within the 20-minute neighborhood concept. The idea of meeting your basic needs within a 20-minute walk of your home isn't limited to food and clothes, but also entertainment, personal grooming, basic medical and dental services, etc.

Here are some facts from IndieBound:

When you shop at an independently owned business, your entire community benefits:

The Economy

  • Spend $100 at a local business and $68 of that stays in your community. Spend the same $100 at a national chain, and your community only sees $43.
  • Local businesses create higher-paying jobs for our neighbors.
  • More of your taxes are reinvested in your community—where they belong.
The Environment
  • Buying local means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Shopping in a local business district means less infrastructure, less maintenance, and more money to beautify your community.
The Community
  • Local retailers are your friends and neighbors-support them and they'll support you.
  • Local businesses donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.
  • More independents mean more choice, more diversity, and a truly unique community.

Support our independent booksellers and other local businesses—shop them well, and often!

Stores mentioned in the article:

Looking Glass Bookstore (Sellwood-Moreland)

Twenty-Third Avenue Books (Northwest District)

Annie Bloom's Books (Multnomah)

Powell's Books (Pearl District)

Don't see your favorite bookstore listed? Tell us the name and why it's your favorite!