Friday, May 01, 2009

Declaration of Independents

The genesis is lost in the mists of April. The best stories, though, place the idea at the feet of American thriller writer Joseph Finder (Killer Instinct, Power Play) who started the ball rolling with a tweet on Twitter. And, once that roll had begun, there was no holding it back. By early this week, the call had reached a strident, high-pitched command: “Buy Indie” came the shouts and, by all accounts and as I write this, they did. They are. And they will.

The idea, of course, is that no one understands booklovers the way independent booksellers do. From the outset, this seems only logical. It’s not possible for a huge chain store to respond to the needs of individual clients the way an indie can. And a big, faceless online bookseller? Clearly, it can’t give customers the level of care and service that your neighborhood bookseller dishes out daily.

And here’s the thing: the power? It’s all with us. Here’s what I mean:

These days it seems as though we’re losing too many and too much of our newspapers. Cutbacks. Layoffs. Even, in some cases, closed doors. And why? In part, the fault is ours: we’re simply not reading--and paying for--them enough. Advertisers have noticed, and they’re staying home. The result? A bloodbath that’s making those of us who love newspapers weep every time we hear of another cutback, another stilled press.

It’s not surprising that a lot of the same people who love news and newspapers also value independent booksellers. A lot of us even have our own special, favorite stores. Vendors with whom we have a relationship: who order in new books they figure we’ll like. Who say our name when we walk through the door.

Today, then, becomes the day we symbolically rescue our favorite bookseller. And if everyone makes the same wish, and walks through those doors, that wish will come true.

Times are difficult. We all know that. And a lot of us are making sacrifices of some sort. All the numbers, though, point to the fact that books are not among the sacrifices we’re making. We might skip a vacation this year, but our souls and hearts still need to travel. Books will take you there.

We have learned--or perhaps, are learning--that our actions as individuals really do have impact. We’re learning, as a generation and in so many ways, to walk the walk. So buy indie today: As with all the best deals and decisions, everybody wins.


The Mystery Bookstore said...

Thank you. I'm an indie bookseller -- in fact, Lee Goldberg practically lampooned me in one of his Mr. Monk books because I get a bit, er, determined. But your beautifully written column here helps make it worthwhile. Let's hope the movement lasts more than a day.

Linda Brown
Asst. Manager
The Mystery Bookstore Los Angeles

R. T. said...

In my small, backwater corner of the world (on the Gulf coast where Florida and Alabama collide), the independents have been nearly completely eliminated in the past decade or two while the big chain stores continue to dominate the market. A number of good used bookstores continue to survive (if not thrive), and in some locales (especially nearby Fairhope, Alabama, where a couple of independents hang in there). On the whole, though, it is discouraging to see the small stores disappear. Perhaps the pendulum will swing back the other way if book buyers get beyond their own geographical limits and support independent bookstores via online shopping. If the indies cannot be here for us in every small town, we can instead visit their store through the computer keyboard and monitor.

Anonymous said...

I have a great indie bookstore near my home in Boreum Hill, Brooklyn -- Book Court. The mystery section is not too good, but they will special order anything (I think they even have an insider on the black market). I make it a point to buy from them since I'm no longer near specialty mystery stores in Manhattan. But it shouldn't end with just books. I try to buy local whenever possible: office furniture, hardware, groceries, etc. Support your local businesses in general.