More than 500 bookstores participated in this year's Independent Bookstore Day, which took place across the U.S. this past Saturday, April 28. The event is intended to increase the public’s awareness of independent bookstores in their community.
Among the events that took place, 13 bookstores across the Boston area took part in a passport program in which customers could enter a raffle for baskets of books and related ephemera by visiting at least eight of the stores. Items for the baskets were offered up by the bookstores along with local publishers, including Charlesbridge, MIT Press, Godine, Candlewick, and Beacon.
The effort expanded on an existing program and was the brainchild of Jeremy Solomons of the MIT Press Bookstore, David Goldberg at MIT Press, and Clarissa Murphy, a bookseller at Wellesley Books who is also interning at MIT Press. Even as she distributed promotional materials, Murphy said she gained new insights about the bookselling community through the program, after she realized that no bookstore in the Boston Metro Area is more than 20-25 minutes from another. “I don’t think any of us realized that this area was supporting so many stores,” said Murphy.
In Illinois, the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association and Chicago Independent Booksellers Association partnered on #MyChicagoBookstore Challenge, which enticed customers to set out on a race around the city to visit as many bookstores as possible on the day. Customers making a $25 purchase got a passport and a stamp at the first store they visited, which entailed them to discounts. Among those taking up the challenge were GLIBA executive director Larry Law and Sandra Law from Abraham Associates. Their final tally: 10 Chicagoland bookstores visited in 7 hours, winning them a 10% discount for all of the next year.
At Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C.—where the mayor made an official proclamation that the day would heretofore be known as Independent Bookstore Day—the focus was on attracting customers and keeping them engaged. The day started with a visit from the pop-up Purr Cup Café, which brought cats for customers to pet and drinks to buy that went toward the cat rescue. Owner Lisa Poole hosted a Dr. Seuss storytime and the day continued with a Literary Trivia night that was promoted through the local #BookstagramNC hash-tag. “And we had people write down what they loved about Indie Bookstores on a big sign outside the store,” said BrocheAroe Fabian, marketing manager, who added, “and of course, we sold a lot of books, gifts, and other sidelines.”
At some bookstores, authors were the big draw, such as at Brazos Bookstore in Houston, which hosted Argentine author Rodrigo Fresán in conversation with his publisher Chad Post of Open Letter Books about his new novel Bottom of the Sky. Some 35 people attended the evening event, which was preceded by “drunk coloring”—where customers were served free beer and wine and asked to unleash their creativity on coloring books. “It was super busy throughout the day,” said store manager Ben Rybeck, “and sales were up a little bit from last year.”
Amy Spaulding, events coordinator and media manager at The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, N.C.,used both animals—Dave’s Domestic Hedgehogs—and an author, Jacqueline Ogburn, author of The Bookshop Ghost, to keep customers happy. “We featured titles by local authors, had a free raffle of totes filled with ARCs, gift certificates, and gave Regulator swag to every customer on Indie Bookstore Day. We had good crowds and were busy all day,” she said.
Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis hosted First Great Twin Cities Poetry Read, in which more than 50 poets read during the 3-hour event, which jammed the store. It included tarot card readings, which raised $120 for Poetry Asylum, a local group which sponsored the event. Angela Schwesnedl, co-owner of Moon Palace, said it was "their best day ever" for sales.
In Gresham, Ore., Maggie Mae’s Kids Bookshop has only been open for two months, yet it still celebrated Independent Bookstore Day. “We had a great day filled with local author readings by Rae Rankin, nature journaling with Wendy Gorton, scavenger hunts, and a coloring station for kids,” said owner Sho Roberts. “We were able to work with nearby small businesses to offer free ice cream, bowling, and discounts. The day was a huge success and was almost as big as our grand opening on March 17th.”
Christine Carter Greer, owner of the Two Sisters Bookery in Wilmington, N.C., said the store had the highest sales day of the year thus far. “Our wonderful tourists are back in town and our local book lovers arrived in droves,” she said. “Some stumbled upon our celebration by chance and others came specifically to celebrate with us. We served mimosas and fresh-baked strudel from our neighbor, The German Cafe. We offered 20% off our hardcovers and held a drawing for a $50 store gift certificate with purchase. Don’t be fooled by rumors or naysayers! In our 41st year in business, our sales are trending up and our beloved, loyal, book-loving customers continue to support us.”
Finally, yes, even more animals made an appearance on IBD, with live llamas visiting Bookshop West Portal in San Francisco, Calif. (see photo at the top of the story) to celebrate the publication of Llama Llama Loves to Read. “Geo Caldwell shepherded Tombo, Quinoa, and Amigo on the three-hour drive from their home in Sonora,” said Susan Tunis, event coordinator for the store. “The entire West Portal community has a terrific time meeting these gentle animals, but perhaps none more so than the bookseller/wranglers! I would like to note that in the course of nearly five hours, there was not a single spitting incident. Nice llamas don’t spit."
This article was updated to correct the location of Maggie Mae's Kids Bookshop.