Why our local bookstores are so special

There’s nothing nicer for us than walking out of a bookstore with a new pile of reading material. Especially at the moment, when bookstores are having such a hard time. Why are local bookstores so special and how can we help them?

There is something lovely about slowly making your way to town during a free moment, with the aim of purchasing a new, carefully selected book. Of ambling around between the shelves of a bookstore—something that we can easily do for hours on end. Of feeling the books, thumbing through them, absorbing the smell of the paper. And although it may be a bit more efficient and we do sometimes buy books this way, no large digital online store can even begin to compete with this as far as we’re concerned.

For us, reading a book is more than just turning the pages. It is also chatting with the sellers about a favorite story or accidentally coming across a title that later becomes a favorite. You don’t get this experience when scrolling through the website of a large chain; but you do get it in the store around the corner.

But, for now and for the near future, these treasured outings will be a bit different. Sadly, bookstores are either closed or only partially open. Inside, there are special routes to follow that take you directly to your favorite genre and we can only feel the book through the membranes of protective gloves, or not even at all. Which, naturally, makes complete sense. But even so, it makes us feel somewhat sad.

At a time like this we tend to choose the most efficient way and buy copies from the larger online chains. And of course, buying online is, for many of us, the only way we can get our hands on a book right now what with lockdowns and regulations that must be adhered to. But it’s a great shame as it is precisely now that our local, independent stores—the ones we love to visit—really need our help. So, how can we support them?

  1. Visit the store
    If it is possible—and, of course, safe enough—visit your bookstore during a quiet moment of the day. Be focused in your search, don’t wander around too long and don’t touch the books unless you know you are going to be buying them. Most stores have adjusted their opening hours, so check online before heading over there.
  2. Order from the store’s online website
    Did you know that your favorite bookstore also probably has an online website where you can order new reading material? If you order your books from there, they’ll often be delivered just as quickly as the larger online stores, but the best part is that you’ll be supporting your own bookstore with your purchase.
  3. Order online or by phone and collect them yourself
    Another possibility, which also throws a bit of exercise into the mix: order the books you want via the bookstore’s website or by telephone, and pick them up at the bricks-and-mortar store.

Text Bente van de Wouw; Translation Julia Gorodecky