Let Us Now Praise Independent Bookstores April 26, 2017

This Saturday, April 29, marks Authors for Indies day, when writers across Canada will set up camp in their local bookstores to show support for independent booksellers. Also, sign books. Just about anyone’s, given a chance.

I’ll be at Book City on the Danforth in Toronto from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., supporting my well-loved local, there to talk about my new novel Mad Richard. Not to mention books by other local writers, ranging from Michael Ondaatje (who wrote his breathtaking novel In the Skin of the Lion while living nearby) to award-winning non-fiction writer Alanna Mitchell, who will be in the store later that day with her recent book, Malignant Metaphor, and novelist Terri Favro, author of Sputnik’s Children, ditto.

But for the moment, let us praise independent bookstores.

My friend, novelist Michelle Berry, opened a new bookstore last fall in Peterborough, Ontario, deciding it was time to take the plunge and do something she’d always wanted to do. Her Hunter Street Books is now a destination not only for Peterborough folks but for any writer venturing northeast from Toronto. Be warned. The store is full not only of books, but of writers.

Michelle says she’s found two things:

1) People constantly ask why she’s chosen to enter a quote, dying industry, and

2) Her store is thriving.

So are others across the continent. Punch “independent bookstore” into your favourite search engine and you get hits like a recent New York Times report headlined, Indie Bookstores are Back with a Passion.

“The good news is that the indies are quietly resurging across the (U.S.), registering a growth of over 30 percent since 2009 and sales that were up around 10 percent last year, according to the American Booksellers Association, the indies’ main organization with more than 2,200 stores.

“’Existing stores are selling once more to a new generation of owners,’ said Oren Teicher, the A.B.A.’s chief executive officer, noting that such stores could never be resold during the gloomiest years, when they were under threat from Barnes & Noble and then later, Internet sales.

‘The indies now find that readers are looking for life beyond their computer screens. They want to embrace books in all three dimensions and to select them in a tactile, less anonymous marketplace. Booksellers are fellow readers who converse knowledgeably and jot down their current favorites on helpful bookshelf notes.

“’It’s a more holistic consumerism,” says Mr. Doeblin (who recently opened his fourth indie), describing the bookstore resurgence as part of the explosion of the localism movement that finds young new farmers delivering fresh produce to Main Street markets. ‘The computer screen just hurts; you need a real book in your hand,’ he says.”

The Atlantic reports on “How Indie Bookstores Survived (and Thrived),”  Fortune on “The Indie Bookstore Resurgence,” and in Canada, Now magazine has a recent take-out on “how millennials are saving books.” At their local indies, of course.

Overall, a good news story.

On April 29, please join some of Canada’s finest writers in your local bookstore. To find who will be where, please go to Canadian Authors for Indies 2017.