On Supporting your Local Indie bookstore, and why I opt out.

March 10, 2011 § 3 Comments

So since I’m a writer and book-lover (I refuse to use the word “bibliophile” since it’s a tad pretentious and not a very pretty sounding word) I am supposed to be of the stereotype of persecuting anyone that doesn’t purchase any and all of their books at an Indie bookstore–that is to say, a locally owned bookstore.

I don’t, though.  I actually prefer to get my books at Borders (too bad they’re closing) or Half-Price Books, or on Amazon.  I actually stay far, far away from indie bookstores.

Why?  Well, I don’t think anyone would deny that their prices are usually outrageous.  They’re usually at least a couple of dollars higher than the MSRP price because they can’t purchase in bulk like giant retailers can because of lack of space.  And the lack of space means they have a very limited number of books available.  They don’t usually carry “old” books–books five years or older–and they mostly carry books by local authors–while a definite perk, I’m not one to usually support self-published authors and authoresses; too many bad to make it worth finding the good, although I guess I could say that about pretty much all literature now.

Anyway.

Indie bookstores seem to cater to these local authors and a “clique” begins to form.  A pretentious (that would be twice I’ve used this word in this post) clique that outcasts those of us who simply like to browse or are looking for something particular and don’t necessarily want or care to purchase a local author book or anything for that matter, and is given the pretentious (three) staredown by the bookstore owners.

Not a way I’d like to spend my day, thank you very much.

If I browse, I like to go to Borders, because I find their stores to be more aesthetically pleasing than good ol’ B&N and while in said browsing mood I am supplied with endless titles in endless genres to poke through.  It’s large enough to hold many people who are also doing their own thing so I don’t have to worry about anyone looking at me and if I don’t buy anything it’s alright.  Plus, why not go somewhere where I can not only buy the book at the actual MSRP price, but for dollars cheaper by using one of my coupons or when the bookstore is going out of business, which is what’s happening.  And borders actually does a good job at hosting local authors, so it’s got something for everyone.

For textbooks, Amazon is usually my trusted site, since I’ve bought a few for only a quarter each and the wait time is not too terribly long and they’re usually in decent condition.  I love to browse at half-price stores because their is something to be said about owning a book that’s been owned by a slew of people before me–I could also say this about apt living, but it would not be as positive.  It almost makes the story sweeter, knowing that I am only participating in the book’s history and am not the final act.

Plus, who doesn’t like a book for a dollar??

So, no.  I will not go to Indie bookstores for the sake of it being an “indie” bookstore.  Also, I think calling it “Indie” is actually a pretty stupid nickname.  It’s short for “Independent,” but with the rise of hipsters the nickname’s origin has lost all it’s meaning and people that usually advocate it are the same people that wear hemp shoes or plugs in their ears and are only raising their voice at tragedy of the bookstore’s downfall simply because, to them, all things “indie” need to avenged. Have I mentioned  how I am disappointed-but not surprised-at how trendy indie has become.  I will not sign your petitions to support Trendy, I mean, Indie bookstores until they can provide me with the same service major retail bookstores do.  And I will continue to buy books elsewhere and not feel bad about the decline of originality, or localness, or whatever adjective is used to make these bookstores sound wholesome and somewhat of a religious experience.

I will not say the same about other trendy, I mean, Indie things.  I really like farmer markets and tiny comic book shops, and other things.

But if I want good reads–and I want a whole lot of them–I want them cheap and I want them to be in good supply.

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§ 3 Responses to On Supporting your Local Indie bookstore, and why I opt out.

  • katelyn h says:

    Hi C,
    I disagree with your premise. Not that the major retailers have something to offer– they certainly do. My objection is with your absolute stand against independent bookstores. Your position is as wrongheaded as the one you oppose because both positions are based on principle rather than reality. It prompts the question “what have local bookstores done to you?” It’s also worth pointing out that your final position is a self-fulfilling prophecy. How can local bookstores offer you the same level of service and compete at the same price levels if you won’t do business with them? The qualities you admire in the big retailers are possible because of their sales volume; if you refuse to give the local booksellers business (ie volume), you’re making yourself part of your own problem.

    Personally, I don’t see the harm in specialty stores (which is how you have to look at local, independent bookstores). They lend diversity to a neighborhood and help foster a place-identity (like cupcake stores and local clothing boutiques); if we only had major retailer selling to us, we would lose that, and it would be a bummer.

    It’s dangerous to assume that books by local authors are disreputable. All authors live somewhere, and if a local bookstore want to champion a successful resident, what is the objection? It helps elevate emerging artists (such as yourself) and brings pride to the community. I love seeing UH professors’ books in Brazos.

    Finally, indie-pendent does still mean something, especially in regard to these bookstores. They are independent of the national chains. Whether a person sees value in that is up to them, but we should not mistake a lack of personal regard for a lack of meaning.

    -k

  • k,
    sorry, i suppose i made this blog out to be more of a rant and rave than a sort-of analysis. i agree that local bookstores give flavor, and i absolutely love local stores in general–such as clothing stores and music shops. in fact, rice village was where i shopped the most.
    but i disagree that independent bookstores will change should their sales volume increase, and perhaps that’s naive or ignorant of me to think that way. i think independents are small because they want to be, and should they get larger and more able to compete with retail stores, it kind of defeats the purpose (at least, that’s my opinion).
    and i do like and support local authors, like i said, the borders-here at least-has local author days most every sunday.
    sorry. didn’t mean to post this as being offensive. of course, that’s how language sounds most of the time when you can’t hear the voice behind it.
    c.

  • christine says:

    I’m with you. I don’t buy books at indie bookstores because of price and lack of selection.
    I do, however, buy food and (sometimes) clothes at local places because they often provide one-of-a-kind items I can’t find elsewhere. Most books I’m interested in reading, though? I can find them online or at Borders/B&N/Books-A-Million.
    No way am I going to pay more than I have to for a book…because I buy too many books to spend more than I have to on them, kwim?

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