The Last Bookstore
3. The focus on community
Events, working with local businesses, and getting people from outside the store involved in different ways all serve to strengthen the relationship between a bookstore and the community it serves. In Brooklyn especially, I’ve seen WORD in Greenpoint (now with a second location in New Jersey) work with all the other stores around their neighborhood. Community in Park Slope does a big reading series with the local synagogue that has brought readers like Donna Tartt and Malcolm Gladwell into a borough they used to ignore. It all shows that indie bookstore owners don’t open up shop with the hope of becoming the biggest bookstore in the country: they see themselves as local businesses that engage and care about the community. If you care about where you live, the people who live around you will care back.
4. Local bookstores understand social media
Are you one of the 15,000+ people who follow Washington DC’s Politics & Prose on Twitter? Did you realize that 18,000+ follow Book People in Austin, Texas? Or maybe you’re one of the 90,000+ who Powell’s in Portland. Whatever the case, despite all the money big brands (like this week’s punchline, U.S. Airways) throw at social media “gurus,” indie bookstores understand Twitter (and Facebook, and Tumblr) better than almost any business.
5. Indie booksellers empower their employees
I’m not saying they offer a career path with fringe benefits and a retirement program, but I’ve known the people behind the registers at some stores for years. In a place like New York City, where new faces come in and out of your life every hour, that says something. It says that the owners push their employees to take pride in their identity as booksellers. It sometimes feels a little like the corny Whole Foods “team member” jargon, but it actually works. People who work in bookstores care a great deal about what they’re doing.