July 23, 2011

Declaration of Independents

Filed under: Declaration of Independents,The Writing Life — jenny @ 4:58 pm

And now for something completely different. While there may be nothing to do for Borders but mourn, I am happy to say that what we found on the wider bookstore front, traveling cross country, is that things are not only thriving, but proliferating.

I don’t mean that bookstores are opening second–and third–branches, though that is indeed happening. But also that the purpose of bookstores, their role in the community, is becoming more complex and multi-faceted.

In Midway, Utah, a small gem of a town in which I would love to vacation, a bookseller named Judith runs ReBook. The setting is a turn-of-the-last-century house that’s been added onto at least three times, and Judith has books in all of the additions as well as the house proper. The former kitchen is filled with cookbooks and volumes of cooking lore! It is a truly marvelous place.

Judith told me that not only does she host author events and book clubs, but she also has a mahjong circle, which meets regularly for an ongoing competition in her store. And in this largely LDS community, community meetings are held at–where else? The bookstore.

When a large bookstore recently closed, I was told that its owner hung a sign in the window: Need a bathroom? Try Amazon.

But as a commenter yesterday said on this blog, in order for bookstores to survive, they must do more than offer a clean bathroom.

Amazon has its place, and bookstores have theirs.

Booksellers like Judith–and Whitney and Bruce at Rediscovered Books in Boise; Rachel and Jennifer at The King’s English in Salt Lake City; Paul and Meg at Prairie City Lights in Iowa City; the folks at The Tattered Cover in Denver; Murder by the Book here in Portland (more on these good folks and others to come)–understand this. And they are making their stores into places where people come together over not just a shared love of reading–but a shared love of living.

Western Bookstore Collage
I was corresponding with a writer recently, and he feels that from the number of e readers he sees on planes, plus his sense of the industry, digital reading will vanquish print fairly soon.

My take is a little different. Perhaps Kindles abound on planes–a pretty good use for them, I’d agree, though as you know from yesterday’s post, I travel with books even when they weigh me down some–but bookstores all across the country abound with something else.

Not readers (e or otherwise). People.


  1. Love the picture of you and the kids! it’s nice to “see” you!:)

    Comment by Judy — July 23, 2011 @ 5:15 pm

  2. I love my Kindle – but I also love to hang out in a bookstore. In my town of Olympia there are severalwonderful indie-bookstores and they cater to those of us who want to linger and read. They sell a mix of good used and new books so you can often get a book that is out of print, if you want one to complete your collection..

    Comment by Connie — July 23, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

  3. Thanks, Judy! And hi!

    Connie, my hope is that bookstores, books, and digital reading can coalesce somehow. People should be able to enjoy the merits of both, or either, depending on what they prefer.

    Comment by jenny — July 23, 2011 @ 5:55 pm

  4. Great pic, Jenny.

    I love my Nook, but I still love my books!

    Hoping your trip is wonderful.


    Comment by Pamela DuMond — July 23, 2011 @ 7:03 pm

  5. Thanks for the wonderful story. I switched to a Kindle because literally every shelf in my house is full of books but I still love browsing the bookstore. That first breath you take when you walk through the doors – the smell of books. I would love it if we had one of those little bookstores in our town. I’d take my Kindle and visit (and no doubt buy a book or two!) Don’t forget to add that Facebook share button! I’d love to share this post.)

    Comment by My Life. One Story at a Time. — July 23, 2011 @ 8:50 pm

  6. Thank you, Donna, for commenting and how great that you enjoy both. And yes, I promise, the share button is coming!!

    Pam, how great to see you here. Trip is great–next time we will cross paths!!

    Comment by jenny — July 24, 2011 @ 1:32 am

  7. That sounds like a great place. Bookstores are wonderful places, and those that offer something special should be treasured. I have a Kindle and love it, but I’m not giving up print books. I believe there’ll be room for both for a long time. I hope so anyway.

    Comment by Ellis Vidler — July 24, 2011 @ 8:12 am

  8. Great post! I love my Kindle but there is something so special about a bookstore. Especially the smell of the books. The library is special too. My local library is in financial trouble because of the Kindle, Nook & other ereaders just like the bookstores are. I hear this is as common for libraries as it is for bookstores. I’d love to see some small bookstores open (there’s none close to me) in my town where you could sit in a comfy chair & crack open a book. I’d also love to see people learn that all forms of books can exist on this earth without competing.

    Comment by Deb Hockenberry — July 24, 2011 @ 9:01 am

  9. Oh my goodness! Please keep this pictures and details coming. I’m living vicariously through your book travels. I love the ReBook sign. Bookstores are community and that warms my heart. I guess that’s why I write small town stories…something about the people and fellowship just makes me feel good and I want to share that.

    And Ellis…I agree with you that there is room for both. I love my Kindle and that it lets me stretch my book-buying budget in these touch economic times but I’ll never give up my love for libraries, book stores and good old fashioned paper in my hands :)

    Hugs and happy reading, ya’ll.

    Comment by Nancy Naigle — July 24, 2011 @ 9:33 am

  10. Jenny,

    It’s wonderful that you are driving and touring bookstores. Great to make contacts ahead of time. Hopefully these places will last. You do see a lot of e-readers on planes, but there’s nothing like holding a real book in your hand.

    Thanks for a great post!


    Comment by Mary Montague Sikes — July 24, 2011 @ 11:47 am

  11. I love your article. Personally I do not have an e-reader. There is something so special about holding a book in your hands. I found your web site on Author Central. I love your site and am now following you.

    Comment by Isabella — July 24, 2011 @ 9:25 pm

  12. Deb! Yes! Personally I think this is a great philosophy for all of life–not just books/readers: “I’d also love to see people learn that all forms of books can exist on this earth without competing.” If the politicians and fanatics could embrace it, we might have a much safer planet…

    Isabella, welcome to the site! I’m so glad to see you here.

    Nancy & Ellis, it’s great to talk to you over here at the blog as well, and thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    Monti, hi! I agree!

    Comment by jenny — July 24, 2011 @ 10:42 pm

  13. What an interesting post. I love those bookstores you mention and want to visit them.

    Comment by June Shaw — July 25, 2011 @ 9:27 am

  14. Someday you should venture to Seattle, where one of the more successful independents, Third Place Books, operates as a “commons” where people gather for food, performances of all kinds, and even an indoor farmer’s market. They have a huge book stock, selling both new and used, but people gather there for many reasons and it’s a truly wonderful experience.

    I buy all of my books at independent bookstores.

    Comment by Alex MacKenzie — July 25, 2011 @ 11:50 am

  15. I *love* this idea, Alex! Thanks so much for sharing. I am in Portland, OR now–if we don’t make it to Seattle on this trip, I will be there in winter 2013, when my first novel–gasp–comes out :)

    Comment by jenny — July 25, 2011 @ 1:52 pm

  16. Great post Jenny and I couldn’t agree more. When I enter a bookstore, I feel I am home. I did a reading/signing at a lovely little bookstore on the sunshine coast of BC called Blue Waters Books this past weekend. I had such a good time. The owner, Dale, made me feel so welcome and many people stopped in to say hello (and some bought my books too!) Long live the local independant bookstores. Check out Blue Waters http://www.bluewaters.ca and visit if you ever get the chance.

    Comment by Darlene Foster — July 25, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

  17. I’m going to have to check out the Boise store. My mom grew up there. I just did a book talk in Friday Harbor, WA and the store owner is pretty unhappy about Kindles and how they affect her business. Some Kindle owners come in and look at books and then go order it on-line, using her place as a warehouse. That’s a problem. Bookstores really a part of a community. Yet, I feel that Kindles and other reading devises will somehow have its place, but we want our stores and libraries. We need to help them survive.

    Comment by JL Oakley — July 26, 2011 @ 12:29 am

  18. I definite will check them out, Darlene, and I wish I could’ve been at your signing! *I* would’ve bought a book for sure–now I will go look yours up :)

    JL, I couldn’t agree more. I hear from readers with vision issues that Kindles are a godsend. That’s great. And I know others love them for other reasons. But please don’t take away books & bookstores–or keep future generations from knowing their unique pleasures.

    Thanks for commenting!

    Comment by jenny — July 26, 2011 @ 1:18 am

  19. Hi Jenny & Family (and to your readers also) –

    What a pleasure to have you at ReBOOK! Truly enjoyed your visit, hearing about your book, and especially your fantastic efforts on behalf of small bookstores everywhere. All we “bookies” must support one another, in any way we can, and particularly with our $$$. Our stores add an important dimension to our communities – of knowledge, culture, camaraderie, exploration, involvement–well, you get the idea. A great loss should we all disappear. :>(
    Thanks again, Jenny – looking forward to participating in your December event.

    Comment by JUDITH GRIFFIN — July 27, 2011 @ 4:06 pm

  20. So glad you found us, Judith! You will see many book and bookstore lovers here :) I personally feel honored that the owner of such a wonderful spot as ReBOOK stopped by!

    Comment by jenny — July 27, 2011 @ 7:47 pm

  21. (almost) The first place I head to when I visit a new city is a bookstore. Despite the hundreds of books I have on my kindle, I always bring a book home with me.

    Comment by Caroline — July 28, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

  22. I love this post! I love book stores and was sad when the Borders here in Tx closed last week. I love your blog! Thanks for stopping by mine! Hope to read more from you soon.

    Comment by amanda — August 3, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

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