Don’t you adore a great series of books, stories you know in advance will give you pleasure? I do. I always have. As one of my reading friends said, the best sort of book is the one that draws you to go to bed early so you can slip back into it.
Of course, those books can be hard to find. A great many of my favorites have been discovered the old-fashioned way–browsing the stacks in a bookstore. All those colorful covers, the intriguing titles, the smell of fresh print and the feel of different papers, and the way one book leads to another, and then to another–what a treat for a bibliophile.
I lament the loss of so many bricks-and-mortar bookstores. In my own town of about 60,000 people we have–literally–none. The charming small stores where I spent many happy hours were pushed out when a giant Borders Books & Music arrived, and of course we all know what happened after that.
I’m happy to report that the indie bookstore survives, just the same. In 2013, independent bookstores were on the rise. Many people, like me, don’t find online browsing nearly as entertaining as in-person, in-the-hand (and in the nose) browsing. This past weekend, I visited Sunriver Books & Music, the perfect example of a lively and thriving indie bookstore. It has, as far as I could tell, an unending flow of customers, and many of them make the store a regular stop.
Why would a charming place like Sunriver Books succeed where others might not? And where, I think I can say without reservation, Borders Books failed? You’re probably way ahead of me here, but I should still say it: It’s the bookseller. Or in the case of Sunriver Books, the booksellers.
It’s the perfect experience: You enter the store, are greeted with enthusiasm, and are immediately surrounded by shelves and shelves of carefully chosen and beautifully displayed volumes. The booksellers know their stock, and quickly know you and what you like. They handsell books, and they succeed at it because they have actually read the books themselves, and can match the book to the reader. Despite Amazon‘s efforts–and they’re impressive–the great challenge for all of us who read (and even more for those of us in search of readers) is to place the right book in the right hands.
Despite the general impression created, in part, by a flood of self-published e-books, the paper book is alive and well in the English-speaking world. Taken from USA Today, May 2013: “Preliminary data from the annual BookStats study, released Wednesday by the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group, shows that 457 million e-books were sold last year. That’s up 4456% since 2008, when just 10 million e-books were sold. But it’s still fewer than the 557 million hardcovers sold last year. (Paperback numbers are incomplete.)”
Did that surprise you? It surprised me, even though I own three separate e-readers. I still buy books–paper books–from places like Sunriver Books, Parkplace Books and the venerable and trusty University Bookstore in Seattle. I also love my public library, and where I live, the public library is one of the busiest in the United States. E-readers are convenient, but I love the heft and feel of a paper book, and thanks to the marvelous Deon Stonehouse at Sunriver, I’ve started a new series that I know will give me hours and hours of joy. (It’s the Bess Crawford Mysteries, in case you’d like to know. I love recommending a book I admire, and as with handselling, such recommendations are a sure-fire way to see that a book succeeds.)
I hope these thoughts will encourage you to seek out and patronize the closest independent bookstore you can find. Need a guide? Just visit the IndieBound website. You can find a store, and also find good recommendations from real live booksellers–a precious breed. You can even go to Sunriver Books & Music and buy an autographed copy of my latest novel!
February 17, 2014 Monday at 1:48 pm