The photo is by Superbmust.
When I step inside an independent bookstore, like Upstart Crow in San Diego, the Tattered Cover in
Denver or Mysteryscape in Overland Park, Kansas, I experience a feeling unlike what I feel when I
enter a chain store with a few rows of books.
What makes me feel those few aisles could just as easily be filled with auto parts, men’s clothing, CDs
or, for that matter, chains? Is it the glaring lighting? The cookie cutter regimented architecture? The
half-gallon jug of mustard?
Maybe it’s the fact that in such chain stores I know significantly more about the “product” than the
clerks. I once advised a reader seeking a book for her teenage granddaughter who saw the world in
theatrically tragic terms. I suggested Maisie Dobbs as a book that would leave her happily sobbing.
Maybe it’s because the staff of independent bookstores actually read books, make recommendations,
and interpret requests. I know a bookstore salesperson whose customer was looking for “the word
book Roger Saw Us.” She correctly steered the customer toward Roget’s Thesaurus. Maybe it’s the
excitement of finding a new work by a favorite author or the anticipation of finding an unknown writer.
Maybe it’s because writers sign books. write and exchange critiques in independent bookstores. I have
attended a few critique groups in mega product stores but they just never feel quite as homey as in an
Only one standard issue multi-product store ever agreed for me to do a signing there. On the other
hand, independent bookstore staff “hand sell” my books. They do it one book at a time. (Why don’t
customers buy a dozen at a time?)
What is your favorite bookstore? What makes it your favorite?