Independent Bookstore Day, administered by the American Booksellers Association, takes place this coming Saturday, April 24. More than 740 stores are participating, which is up from last year’s event, which was moved from April to August, and attracted 650 stores. As is customary, a catalog of exclusive items will be for sale, including signed editions of Sharks in the Time of Saviors by Kawai Strong Washburn (Picador) and Cook, Eat, Repeat by Nigella Lawson (HarperCollins); a stencil with the George Orwell quote, “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act;” and a box of IBD branded Blackwing Pencils, among other items.
“We had such a big jump in participants because we didn’t require stores to order and stock IBD exclusive items,” as we had in the past,” said Independent Bookstore program director Samantha Schoech. “This opened up the day to pop-up stores, online only bookstores and others. Of course, the exclusive items will be available through participating store’s websites.”
Schoech said that approximately half the stores will be open for customers, typically with limited capacity, with some planning in-store events. Other stores are planning online-only events, games and other activities. Like last year, to help support the stores, IBD is offering its own slate of virtual events. These began on Monday night with a panel of women humor writers and will continue throughout the week. One highlight is Thursday’s session with Glennon Doyle, the 2021 IBD author ambassador, in conversation with Alexandra Elle. Another is Friday’s discussion with Glory Edim of Well-Read Black Girl in conversation with Rio Cortez, illustrator of the ABCs of Black History.
As in the past, several cities are organizing citywide celebrations. In the past, cities have challenged customers to visit multiple stores in a single day, but with the pandemic, several organizers have extended their challenges. For example, for Seattle Independent Bookstore Day organizers are asking people to participate in the 10-10-10 Challenge, in which patrons have 10 days, from April 24-May 3, to visit 10 of the 21 bookstores in the area participating in the event, either in person or online, and make 10 purchases. Winners will get a limited-edition tote bag. In San Diego, customers can receive an exclusive San Diego Independent Bookstore Day pin by making a $35 purchase at one store, instead of at multiple stores, as in the past. In the Twin Cities area, 18 bookstores have partnered to co-sponsor the Twin Cities Independent Bookstore Day Passport. Customers visiting any of the participating bookstores between April 18-24 can activate that store's coupon, good for a later visit. Ten stamps will activate coupons at 23 bookstores (five of them online-only). Those who obtain stamps from all 18 bookstores will be entered into a drawing for a specially-designed totebag full of books.
Many stores around the country are moving events outside. Raven Bookstore in Lawrence, Kan., is doing a sidewalk sale. Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis is hosting a “literary stroll” outside the store, which is closed to in-person browsing, but has a pick-up window. Babycakes Book Stack, a mobile bookstore based in St. Paul, will also set up shop for the day outside. Left Bank Books in St. Louis is holding an outdoor dance party and open mic for young adults. Downtown Books in Manteo, N.C., is hosting a “story walk,” that lets children follow the pages of a best-selling picture book as they stroll to a local playground. Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, N.J., is using the day to celebrate its 30th anniversary.
“Last year with Covid, things were a little haphazard, but we are much better organized this year,” said Schoech. “We expect it to be a big success.”
This story has been updated with further information.