Wednesday, November 24, 2010

IndieBound: Shopping at an independent bookstore this month?

By Kathie Felix

Many of us will be making some significant book buys this holiday season. Before the shopping begins, however, it might be a good idea to think about what our upcoming book purchase decisions could mean in the greater scheme of book retailing – and in terms of retailing in general.

The independent bookseller members of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) are poised to lend a hand in this debate. They are sponsoring a community-focused movement that brings together booksellers, readers, independent retailers, local business alliances and individuals “with a passionate belief that healthy local economies help communities thrive.”

The initiative, known as “IndieBound,” encourages support for local “indie” businesses that bring dollars, jobs, diversity, purchasing choices and taxes to local communities.

According to the IndieBound program, $100 spent locally keeps $68 in a community – while $100 spent at a national chain keeps only $43 close by. In addition, the project points out that independent businesses create jobs within a community, bring in tax money that is reinvested locally and donate to charities at more than twice the rate of national chains.

The IndieBound effort has its own website – – offering a variety of online tools, including a search engine that can be used to locate nearby bookstores and other independent retailers.

I tested the system with a search linked to my zip code and turned up a list of 30 booksellers within 100 miles. Before the search, I thought I knew all I needed to know about the local indies, particularly since SinC member and independent bookseller Mystery Loves Company is a frequent partner in local SinC events. After the search, I came away with the idea that a gift certificate from a shop that specialized in cookbooks might provide a cookbook-collecting friend with the perfect holiday gift – and would include the chance for a couple of shopping trips in a revitalized historic district. Even better, for the publishing industry, I wasn’t planning to buy this friend a book-related gift before using the IndieBound search engine.

The IndieBound program also offers an opportunity to link a website to specific books or independent bookstores. Participation as an IndieBound affiliate includes referral fees for sales; participants may link to book titles without joining the affiliate program (and without earning referral fees).

In addition, the website features links to an Indie Next List of great reads recommended by booksellers, an Indie Bestseller list, an Indie social networking community and Indie gear.

Now that you know how easy it is to find an independent bookseller anywhere in the country, you can help the indie effort by spreading the word about

And, today, let's talk indie. Tell us about your favorite independent bookstores.

Kathie Felix is a journalist and editor with a background in public relations. She has been on the front lines of bookselling as an in-store bookseller and a manager at the nation’s two largest bookselling chains – and has always considered a job at an indie to be the ultimate bookstore assignment. And, yes, she’s currently at work on a mystery or two of her own.


Karen in Ohio said...

In Cincinnati we have the wonderful Joseph Beth Bookseller. But I understand they have just filed Chapter 11.

In recent visits to the store I've noticed fewer and fewer books, replaced by more and more gift items. The Cincinnati area is one of the best markets for reading in the country, with a phenomenal library system and lots of bookstores, including two children-only stores, Joseph Beth, and several each of the national chains: Books-a-Million, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Half-Price Books.

I think part of the downfall of the indies is that lately the chains have inundated their mailing list with special offers and coupons, daily and sometimes twice a day. It's hard to resist, and when the indie does not do the same thing they get lost in the shuffle.

The other piece is all the chains selling e-readers. They are generating a lot of excitement, and stores that aren't carrying them are losing massive market share, I suspect.

Barbara said...

I was delighted that the MWA is recognizing Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis. The only thing that could make me happier is if they recognized Uncle Edgar's at the same time. I don't know of another city of a similar size that boasts two fine mystery bookstores. Uncle Edgar's is vast, with books to the ceiling and enough stacked on the floor that it probably gives the fire marshal heartburn, but it's a bookavore's dream.

Once Upon a Crime is smaller, but fits in more books per square inch than you might think possible. They have developed wonderful relationships with writers, from big-name bestsellers to local authors and local small publishers. Their Write of Spring brings together dozens of Minnesota authors and, occasionally an honorary Minnesota author. It will be held on April 2nd this year, so mark your calendars.

Barbara D'Amato said...

I've been shopping for books by mail from independent mystery booksellers. They're willing to order books, which some large stores will not do. I love to browse in bookstores, too, but there's something to be said for ordering from the comfort of home.

Sandra Parshall said...

Mystery Loves Company in Oxford, MD, is a wonderful store. Owners Kathy and Tom Harig have been great friends to the Chesapeake Chapter of SinC and the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of MWA.

Sue Curran said...

Booked for Murder in Madison, WI is my favorite. We don't have a bookstore in Monroe, so Madtown is the nearest. Sara is great at supporting and promoting local authors especially sisters. The Wisconsin Chapter has held the quarterly meetings there several times.

Jackie King said...

The best Indie book store in Oklahoma is Steve's Books and Sundries. A person can find books of all kinds at Steves--(PlUS they have an old fashioned soda fountain that takes me right back to my childhood.

Avery Aames said...

I love Mystery Bookstore in Westwood, California. The people are fabulous! They know their books; they love their authors!

Mystery Lovers' Kitchen

Dana Stabenow said...

The Homer Bookstore in Homer, Alaska can order any book I want or need. Plus they've got a big shelf with staff picks, a lot of them with mini-reviews. I love browsing that shelf. Plus they'll let you write a shelf talker about a book you especially like.

Cathy Pickens said...

In Charlotte, within two miles of my house, we will be losing both a Borders and a Joseph-Beth store. My beloved and supportive Park Road Books is still there, but these losses remind me no one is immune in a still-tough economy.

Independents give us variety -- not just the books promoted heavily by publisher co-op money, but local books ... and books ideally suited for that individual reader.

Buying a book helps bookstores AND publishers and writers keep supplying us as readers with a delightful variety of choices in good reads. Kathie, thanks for the reminder, here in the gift-giving season!