I Am an Indie and Happy About It

Josie Leavitt - February 14, 2011

I’m trying something new. I’m going to be happy about the plight of the indie bookstore. I realize I’ve just contradicted myself by saying happy and plight in the same sentence. That sums things up, but I’m done complaining.
Are indies facing a huge battle? Totally. Is there anything we can do to compete with the Amazons of the world who deeply discount, don’t pay sales tax and do everything they can to drive us out of business? I’m not sure. But a good indie is getting to be a rare thing, and this needs to be celebrated.
No, I cannot sell a bestseller for 46% off its cover price. What I can do is help you when none of the bestsellers look appealing. Are you looking for something totally different, but don’t know what that is? Then an indie is the place for you to be. We know our stock, we’ve read most of it and we all have amazing memories which allow us to get you the right book almost every time.
Does your child need help finding a chapter book that not only looks appealing , but that he will devour? Well, come on down, I can do that, and so can anyone on my staff. All we do is share our love of books with anyone who walks in the door, and that is a powerful thing that needs to be heralded from rooftops.
We are not Amazon and we don’t want to be. We don’t want to be a chain store. We want to the store to be a place you come in when you’re sad and need to smell the books to feel better or get a hug from someone who is sad that you’re having a terrible day. We want to be the store you can call at closing and we’ll leave a book you need for a present on the doorknob for you to pick up after work.We want to be the store you can spend hours in amiably chatting about books, life or your pets. We are the place that thinks of you and your reading habits when we place frontlist orders. We are the store that does everything we can to make sure you have a good experience every time you shop.
We are entrenched in our communities. We pay sales and property taxes that fund the schools, the roads, and the Little League field and we’re happy to do it. We bring authors to the schools and host wonderful, free events for the whole community.  We need you as much you need us. It’s just sometimes we need to remind you.

23 thoughts on “I Am an Indie and Happy About It

  1. Fran Manushkin

    I loved this post! It reminded me of a bookstore in Camden, Maine, years ago. I needed part two of “War and Peace” to take to Monhegan Island, and they opened up the store for me so I could get it. Take that, B&N.

  2. Bill Beaman

    What a great post! Can you move your store to Iowa? Great Valentine’s day post but maybe you should re-run it on July 4th to tie in with the independence of “indie” authors and book marketers.

  3. Shannon

    Thank you Indie Booksellers. You make my heart race!
    This past holiday season I delighted in suggesting to friends and loved ones and blog followers alike that they visit their local independent booksellers. My greatest gift under the tree this year were three books from my local heroes at Quail Ridge Books and Music in Raleigh, NC. My normally on-line shopping husband went to them for advice on which books would be best for me. Wouldn’t you know it, he brought home (beautifully wrapped at the store) two books that were on my “To Buy” list. A list he knows nothing about.
    Indie’s know their customers well. They work hard to keep us in their own hearts. I hope we can continue to remember them in our hearts this year too.

  4. Barbara DaCosta

    A visit with a friend to a large chain grocery yesterday reminded me that it’s not just the independent bookstores that create the unique fabric of a community, but also every other small, local, non-cookie-cutter businesses that are expressions of a vision, and let the customers and proprietors create—GASP! social networks!

  5. Loretta Ellsworth

    I’ve been thinking a lot about how my community needs an indie bookstore- we’re twenty miles away from the nearest one. I still make the trek there as often as I can because there’s nothing like the feel I get when I go into my local indie and they greet me by name. Thank you!

  6. Carol B. Chittenden

    Josie, I’m so happy you’re an Indie bookseller too! And after almost 25 years of it, I still love doing it too, for all the reasons you state and a thousand more. The ONLY drawback is the purely $$$ part: nobody can have this job unless they’re already firmly established in the middle class. When the time comes to find a successor, I will have to admit that it must be someone who does not need to purchase a home, buy health insurance, educate a child, or save for retirement. That’s one negative against thousands of positives. (Sort of makes me chuckle when teachers complain about their salaries though.)

  7. Laurie Skiba

    I love my independent bookstores in northern CA–Book Passage in Corte Madera and Copperfields in Petaluma and Santa Rosa. I love the way they remember who I am when I come in, and the feeling that they are on the same mission of good reading and literacy as I am!

  8. Ruth Erb

    So good to see in print, what sort of person is needed to take over an indie book store. We are in that position, after 30 years. Do you suppose there is a chance that an indie-wealthy person can be found, who will take over what is a passion job first and, if lucky, a bu$iness job perhaps in the future?
    I hope so.

  9. Lynda

    I’d much prefer poking around a small indie store with a personal feel to it. The big chains just can’t pull of the same vibe–libraryesque. Barrington Books in Rhode Island is *wonderful.* Of course, The Flying Pig is among the very best as well! Thanks, Elizabeth and Josie for the treasure of The Flying pig!


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