Indie Bookstore Pledge Might Help Save a Life
The Pilot, which owns The Country Bookshop in downtown Southern Pines, is reprinting this column with permission.
By Sarah Callender
Reprinted from Book Talk
I 've never really considered myself hero material. I don't have the right footwear.
I need at least 7.5 hours of sleep a night. When I stand up too fast, I get a little dizzy and have to bend over for about five seconds until the blood rushes to all the right places.
My most unheroic trait, however, is this: I am a shirker of responsibility. Here's one realm of my shirkdom, one that's humiliating to admit to my writer friends: I have bought many, many books on Amazon. Please know my head is low and my cheeks are red as I admit this to you.
Of course I've long known that writers should support indie bookstores. But still, I didn't. I had become lazy and cheap, two traits to which Amazon caters.
Realizing the magnitude of my stupidity made me want to reduce the magnitude of my stupidity. The result?
I vowed that I would no longer allow my desire for convenience and my love of a good bargain to rule my book buying decisions. I would do my part to save the lives of independent bookstores. And in doing so, I would become something of a hero. A third-tier hero, sure, but a hero nonetheless.
And today, so can you. But why should you? Why should your friends and family care about saving the lives of independent bookstores?
Bookstores facilitate a more connected community. Whether we live in a large city or a small town, we humans crave and need a connected community. Spend a few moments on Facebook, and you'll see just how desperately we crave and need the fellowship of others.
Lucky for us, good independent bookstores are often the heartbeat of a community, partly because bookstores do much more than sell books. These days, they have to. The best indie bookstores host readings and musicians. They are meeting places, perfect venues to grab a coffee or a panini.
Real People in Real Life
Bookstores provide places where people can come together in real life and connect over books and music and ideas and food. Real people in real life. Just like the good old days. Go spend an hour in one; you'll see how good it feels.
Bookstores add personality and color to a community. I've never heard someone say, "Gosh, I wish our town had more strip malls." And neither have you. Sure, independent bookstores might be found in a strip mall, but bookstores are the best deterrent of what strip malls connote: cookie-cutter communities devoid of style and personality.
Bookstores are often the soul, the esprit de corps, of a town. Let's not allow the riptide of big box retail chain stores to wash away the soul of our communities.
Bookstores are incubators. Books, music, food, conversation, debate all take place at independent bookstores.
As a result, bookstores make us more informed, engaged and enlightened. Bookstores provide the venues that will grow our brains and our awareness of the culture and ideas and art of others.
Bookstores also incubate readers of books. The world needs more readers of books. So let's support those warm, well-lighted stores that allow our little chick selves to grow.
Of course, Old Me still knows supporting indie bookstores is more expensive.
Bah! (says New Me). Buying books via indie bookstores may mean I spend a little more on books, but many of us pay for public radio, The New York Times, or tickets to community theater. I subscribe to Publishers Marketplace and Poets and Writers. Yet I grumble about paying four dollars more for a book from an indie bookstore? Not anymore, I don't. Culture has a price. I am willing to pay for it.
Likewise, Old Me believes buying books from independent bookstores is inconvenient.
Wah! So is recycling and taking public transportation and bringing reusable bags to the grocery store, but somehow I integrate those things into my life with little trouble. "Indie bookstores aren't convenient" is just a terrible excuse.
Sharing a Pledge
Superman doesn't make excuses. Ever. So today, I'd like to share my pledge:
I, Sarah Callender, vow to buy at least one book a month from a local indie bookstore for the rest of my life.
I started in June with Yuvi Zalkow's "A Brilliant Novel in the Works" (a preorder) and "The Age of Miracles," by Karen Thompson Walker.
July was "This Is Where I Leave You," by Jonathan Tropper. August was "The Care and Handling of Roses with Thorns," by Margaret Dilloway, and Erika Robuck's (preorder) "Hemingway's Girl."
Sure, I have cut back a little on writing at coffee shops (where I spend more money than if I write at home) to make up for the small bump in indie bookstore spending. I have also had to haul myself and the kids to the brick-and-mortar store. But once there, I understood that in getting lazy and cheap in my book-buying, I had forgotten the magic of a bookstore. My children had forgotten it too. Shame on me.
Superman would never let his kids forget the magic of a bookstore.
But here's a cold, hard fact: Indie bookstores need more than you and me to save their life. They need you and me and all of our friends and family to vow to donate the lifeblood that will indeed save independent bookstores.
So will you, too, make a pledge to buy one book per month from an indie bookstore? And will you convince someone else to do the same? If you do that, and if your friends convince their family and friends to do the same, and so on and so on, we will pump enough life into the independent bookstores that are the lifeblood of our community.
Will you? If so, please put your pledge in writing via the comments section.
And gosh, should you still feel the need to support Amazon, why not use them to order some hero attire, perhaps a cape and some spandex? I hear you can get some screaming deals on Amazon.
Now please, get out there and save some soul by pledging your support! Repost this post on your blogs and Facebook pages, share the post with indie bookstores so they can share it with their clients, email the link to your nutty relatives. Let's see whether we can really make a difference. I bet we can. I know we can.
Sarah Callender lives in Seattle with her husband, son and daughter.
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