downloadAn article in The Daily Beast, “Indie Bookstores Are Finally Not Dying,” draws attention to the by-now-just-a-wee-bit-well-known fact that indie bookstores as a whole are not doing so very badly in the post-disruption post-Amazon era, and as it happens are in some cases doing quite well. This isn’t to pooh-pooh the sufferings of those worthy bookshops that are struggling in current trading conditions, but it is to discredit the grand Big Five/Luddite narrative of brave little bookshops and their stalwart publisher allies struggling against the Amazon behemoth.

The article, covering bookstores in the context of the first Independent Bookstore Day, still talks of “the sort of smarts and energy that help them survive the chains and Amazon,” but if Amazon is a menace to anyone, as has so often been remarked, it’s likely the chains. The Daily Beast quotes Independent Bookstore Day program director Samantha Schoech, a former bookseller, as saying we wanted to change the tired narrative of bookstores hanging on by a thread and being these musty throwback shops,” but somehow it just can’t seem to help falling back into the same groove. And it only reflects a trend seen in the media elsewhere, where for every article supporting a positive view of the indie bookstore sector, you see another one pointing to the opposite.

Naturally, in a diverse sector composed of small disparate businesses, you’re always going to be able to find examples to prove either point of view. But a little less overhype in the headlines and the argument wouldn’t hurt.


  1. This is very old news in the US.

    Bookstores of all types have struggled with the price dominance of Amazon so that makes it less of a factor in the indie versus the corporate bookstore chains.

    The Big 5 has favored the corporate book chains over the indies for years by offering much cheaper volume pricing that the indies have struggled to compete against by banding together to buy books which are still more expensive for them.

    After watching the indies dying off, the slow death of a number of book store chains, and the dominance of B&N and Amazon in the market, the Big 5 have finally started wising up and offering fairer prices to indies.

    Meanwhile, the indies have fought back by offering first-rate customer service and by joining the “buy local” movement that emphasizes loyalty to neighborhood mom-and-pop stores over chains.

    Even then, a sneeze downward in the economy or the constant rental price rise can prove deadly for both chains and indies.

  2. As I see it, buying from Barnes & Noble is little to no different from Amazon – except Amazon is better, cheaper, faster. B&N may have the stores, but the stock they carry is too geared towards popularity and teens to interest me.

    Now downtown Seattle has an excellent indie bookstore where I can browse for hours, but it’s a longish drive and a hassel to get there – so I only go there once or twice per year.

    I’m sure it’s like this elsewhere: the city is served but the outskirts get B&N. It would be nice if were otherwise but it is what it is.

    By the way, I work 5 minutes from a B&N but have only been in two or maybe three times in three years. If I worked that close to a well stocked bookstore I’d be buying lots more books – probably every week during lunch hour.

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