Buying five or six books a year from a local store instead of online keeps the doors open and the staff working at an independent bookseller, Flyleaf Books owner Jamie Fiocco said.
Roughly $68 of every $100 spent at an independent bookstore stays in the community, according to the Independent Booksellers of the Piedmont NC. That’s compared to $43 staying in the community when you shop at a national chain, IBOPNC officials said.
It also reduces the amount of packaging and the pollution from delivery trucks, while adding more jobs and tax revenues to local coffers, they said.
It can be a tough business, as evidenced by at least three longtime independent bookshops that closed in recent years, including Nice Price Books in Durham and Carrboro, and Second Chance Books in Cary. The Bookshop will close this year in Chapel Hill after 32 years on West Franklin Street.
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But despite predictions that ebooks would take over the market, Fiocco said independent bookstores are experiencing a rennaisance. Ebook sellers, who had about 25 percent of the market when Flyleaf opened, now control just 10 percent to 12 percent, she said.
American Booksellers Association reports back that up, noting roughly 1,000 independent bookstores closed from 1992 to 2007. However, the ABA reports the number has grown 30 percent since 2009 to 2,311.
“Again and again, we have people tell us that their tactile connections to a book — coming into a bookstore and smelling paper and talking to the booksellers — is one thing, but physically having something to hold and to see where you are in the book, to see the illustrations, is really important to them,” Fiocco said.
That’s the message of Independent Bookstore Day — held on the last Saturday in April to raise the profile of local retailers. The celebration started in 2014 with one San Francisco bookstore and now stretches from coast to coast.
In central North Carolina, independent bookstores are celebrating all month with the jointly sponsored Bookshop Challenge, a self-guided tour of 12 local bookstores. Prizes are awarded for the number of stamps collected on field guides available at any store — 12 stamps earn the chance to be named in a North Carolina author’s next book or become a Bookseller for a Day.
The challenge ends April 29 with parties, readings, and limited edition literary art and books at each store on the tour.
It’s not just about selling more books, said Tom Campbell, co-owner of The Regulator Bookshop in Durham. They also want to raise the profile of independent bookstores and generate appreciation for their role in the community.
Campbell noted the Triangle is unique for the number of good independent bookstores but also for the conversations they encourage, whether it’s with a well-informed staff, at readings with the author, or between customers who meet in the stacks.
“It cuts against the digital culture where you’re sitting at a computer, (and) you’re not really interacting in real time with a real person,” he said. “A place where you can come and do that that’s open and abiding and relaxing but yet is full of ideas, I think that’s something that people are attracted to because there’s not many places like that anymore.”
On the tour
Find information online about the Independent Bookstore Day celebrations at 12 Piedmont area booksellers participating in this year’s Bookshop Challenge:
▪ Chapel Hill: Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., flyleafbooks.com
▪ Hillsborough: Purple Crow Books, 109 W. King St.; purplecrowbooks.com
▪ Pittsboro: McIntyre’s Books, 220 Market St., Fearrington Village; mcintyresbooks.com
▪ Durham: The Regulator Bookshop, 720 Ninth St., regulatorbookshop.com
Letters Bookshop, 313 W. Main St.; lettersbookshop.com
▪ Raleigh: Read With Me, 111 E. Hargett St., Suite 110; readwithme.us
Quail Ridge Books, 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road; quailridgebooks.com
▪ Wake Forest: Page 158 Books, 158 S. White St.; page158books.com
▪ Southern Pines: The Country Bookshop, 140 NW Broad St.; thecountrybookshop.biz
▪ Greensboro: Scuppernong Books, 304 S. Elm St.; scuppernongbooks.com
▪ Winston-Salem: Bookmarks, 636 1/2 W. Fourth St.; booksmarksnc.org (Opening soon)
▪ High Point: Sunrise Books, 7 Hillcrest Place; sunrisebookshp.com