Critical mass: How to support indie bookstores year-round

May 2 was the inaugural Authors for Indies Day in Canada, coinciding with Independent Bookstore Day in the US and Free Comic Book Day across North America (and beyond). It was a great weekend to be in a bookstore: shops were bustling with patrons and staffers, and in indie shops, authors were reading their books, signing copies for purchase, and handselling their favourite titles. It was a day truly unlike any other, and one that won’t be soon forgotten.

To help keep the spirit alive year-round, here are five (fun and easy!) things you can do:

1. Buy books locally.

Authors for Indies wasn’t just a show of support between authors and their personal favourite shops. It was about calling attention to the pivotal role indie bookstores play in their communities: besides being convenient places to find those titles you’re searching for, a professional bookseller’s job is to inspire your next favourite book and to put it in your hands. It’s for this reason, and others, that Canadians coast-to-coast choose indies.

Convinced? Use this handy locator to find an indie bookstore near you. 

2. Get the word out about other “shop local” initiatives.

Even if you shop local whenever you can, it helps to double-down on efforts and enlist your friends, family, and neighbours in the fight to keep independent businesses alive and well in our communities. A great way to do that is to participate in other initiatives that are like Authors for Indies, such as Canada’s Shop Indie Week in October, or Shop Small and Small Business Saturday in the US and Canada. These initiatives rally business owners and their patrons in the community around the cause, and they can make it easy for shop-local “newbies” to observe a critical mass in the streets.

3. Understand the economic argument.

Sure, it’s easy enough to pull out your smartphone and order your groceries, your most recent book club pick, or some home supplies from any number of online retailers. And, of course, there’s always a time and place for this. However, when you can, why not put your dollars where they can make an impact? When you shop at an independent retailer, the benefits are numerous, according to stats from the Retail Council of Canada:

4. Partner with your local indie.

If you work in the publishing industry, you’re already familiar with the importance of independent bookstores as a sales channel. Fight for the strength of that channel whenever you can by:

And these are just a few opportunities.

5. Bookstores are more than just bookstores.

They’re also meeting places for after-hours study groups and activists, foodbank drop-offs, and more—truly responsive to the needs and desires of their communities, owners, and staff. Think outside of the box and bring your ideas for community animation, fundraising, and more to your local indie. You’ll be surprised with what they come up with! Need convincing? Follow the example of Toronto’s Ben McNally Books, which recently served as a 20’s-inspired wedding venue:

Photos by Madeline Zekkou Photography and Jenn Catanzaro.