Less than a year after Chicagoland indie bookstores as a group issued a statement condemning Amazon in response to the company's announcement that it was going to open a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Chicago in 2017, approximately two dozen indies have formalized their partnership by launching the Chicago Independent Bookstore Alliance.
Similar to St. Louis’ Independent Bookstore Alliance that formed five years ago, ChiBA’s mission is to “promote the ways independent bookstores create, serve and celebrate local and neighborhood communities,” and its members “vow to move forward in a true spirit of collaboration between ChIBA member stores, and in our unifying desire to foster connection between the bookstores, authors and readers of Chicagoland.”
ChiBA's manifesto also states that the organization considers that indies play “a vital role in upholding the larger ecosystem of the publishing world” and that "ChiBA intends to [uphold] the highest ideals of this ecosystem, and [support] all of the players in Chicagoland's literary scene - from the city’s beloved local authors to the stores who host events for them and the readers that attend those events."
The charter members of CHiBA include 17 bookstores that are situated within Chicago’s city limits, and eight suburban bookstores. Members include such stalwarts as Seminary Co-Op, 57th Street Books, and Women & Children First, as well as new stores, like Volumes Bookcafe, which opened in Wicker Park earlier this year. Participating suburban stores include PW’s 2012 Bookstore of the Year, the Bookstall at Chestnut Court, and Bookends and Beginnings, both on Lake Michigan’s north shore, and the three Anderson’s Bookshops in the western suburbs, PW’s Bookstore of the Year in 2011.
Last week, ChiBA unveiled its Facebook page, MyChicagoIndie, which serves as a central listing of author appearances and indie bookstore events throughout Chicagoland and is maintained by Volumes’ co-owner, Rebecca George. It also unveiled a Twitter handle, @chicagoindie, and a hashtag, #MyChicagoIndie, to help booksellers, authors, and other booklovers build up the social media presence of the Chicagoland indies and indies in general.
ChiBA is also partnering with the Chicago Review of Books on the literary magazine's new awards program recognizing the achievements of members of Chicago’s literary community. The awards are for writers in four categories (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, debut), and will be called the "Chirbys." Judges for the 2016 awards include eight Chicago Review of Books staff members as well as eight ChiBA booksellers. A fifth award that will be non-writing-related will be sponsored by ChiBA and its recipients selected by its members. The inaugural Chirby awards ceremony will be held at Volumes Bookcafe on December 8, and the ChiBA Award will be given to an author-activist whose identity has not been disclosed, other than that this person has “actively promoted indie bookstores this year.”
Chicagoland bookstores began actively partnering on projects in the summer of 2014, when nine Chicago indies collaborated on holding Chicago Independent Bookstore Day, which expanded to suburban bookstores the following year.