Independent Bookstore Day was held this past Saturday in both the U.S. and Canada. Booksellers were delighted with the return of the annual holiday celebrating bookselling and turn out was vigorous. PW collected anecdotes from various booksellers around the Midwest, in Seattle and Texas – where our correspondents live-- recounting their experience this year.
Sydne Conant, a bookseller at A Room of One’s Own in Madison, Wis., related that the first customer of the day asked them for help filling up a box with banned books. “She spent over $300 on mostly YA,” Conant said.
Lynn Mooney, the co-owner of Women & Children First in Chicago, was one of 40 indies participating in the Chicagoland Bookstore Crawl on IBD when customers visiting 10 stores received a 10% discount on purchases for the next year and customers to 15 stores received a 15% discount for the next year. She wrote, ““It was epic--it might go down as one of our biggest days ever. The line at the cash register at various times went back into the kids' section (and at one point wound over into our second room!), but the mood was light and no one seemed to mind waiting.”
Besides a run on the IBD merch, Mooney reported that fiction was hot: The Memory Librarian by Janelle Monae, The Candy House by Jennifer Egan, and Delilah Green Doesn't Care by Ashley Herring Blake were the day's three top sellers. There were also pop-ups outside the store, including a family selling hot chocolate as a fundraiser for Ukraine and the owners of a new, theatre-focused bookstore, the Understudy Bookshop, providing a preview of their wares, as the store is opening nearby this summer.
Gretchen West, manager at Valley Bookseller in Stillwater, Minn., a Twin Cities suburb said, “IBD was busy all day despite the dreary weather. One of the booksellers commented it was similar to a Saturday during the holiday season.”
Bob Dobrow, the owner of Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, Minn. said that it was the store’s “best IBD sales day ever.” “The IBD exclusive merch sold well, as did Gichigami Hearts by Linda LeGarde Grover and The Family Camp Cookbook by Emily Vikre (since we had Linda and Emily signing). In terms of genres, the strongest sections were children's books (including YA and Young Readers) and sci-fi/fantasy. We've sold over 400 copies of Gichigami Hearts since it came out and it may soon top Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer as our overall top seller.”
Carrie Koepke, manager of Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, Mo. said, “Great day that included customers introducing us to their new puppies. One of the many things that reminded us we are more than a bookshop.”
Sarah Bagby , owner of Watermark Books & Café in Wichita, Kan., reported, "We sold everything. Some big sellers including Viola by Viola Davis, French Braid by Anne Tyler, The Art of Living by Grant Snider, and for kids, The Knight Owl. There was lots of customer love." Watermark is also celebrating its 45th anniversary.
On Seattle Independent Bookstore Day, 24 indie stores featured a bookstore day passport. Customers who collected a unique stamp on their passport from every store, no purchase required, received a one-time 25% discount at each store, good through Independent Bookstore Day 2023. (Customers have until May 9 to collect all 24 stamps.)
At Island Books on Mercer Island, Wash., owner Laurie Raisys and bookseller Cindy Corujo handed out giveaway ARCs in blind-date-with-a-book wrappers with every $20 purchase. Island Books set up four of their many vintage typewriters for visitors, and supplied snacks too: “We had coffee and donuts this morning, and now we’re waiting for the pizza,” said Raisys.
At Phinney Books in Seattle’s Phinney Ridge, owner Tom Nissley wore a shirt celebrating local bookseller Christina Gilbreath’s new store, The Wise Owl Books and Music, which opened in December in the Tangletown neighborhood.
“He actually came in and bought a shirt,” said Gilbreath, busily showing visitors around and stamping IBD passports with an owl insignia. “It’s not just Seattle—everywhere, you find bookstores are really supportive of each other.” At the Wise Owl, Gilbreath (wearing a Shop Local Book Stores shirt) had invited small local businesses to join her in Independent Bookstore Day: “We’ve got pop-ups and a DJ,” she said. Visitors could grab a book along with a potted plant from Little Orchid Annie’s, a smoothie from Tio Levi’s, or a pet portrait by Leah Lucid.
Billie Swift, owner of Open Books: A Poem Emporium, welcomed readers and writers to the venerable shop’s new space in historic Pioneer Square. “We opened two weeks ago,” she said, perfect timing to join the two dozen Seattle shops on the IBD passport. On the shelves readers found copies of Ocean Vuong’s Time Is a Mother, Shin Yu Pai’s mixed-media Enso, and selected prose like the 50th anniversary edition of Diane Di Prima’s Revolutionary Letters.
Ingrid Miller, co-owner (with husband Tim Miller) of Three Trees Books in Seahurst, Wash., greeted visitors with a bookstore-day passport and an “Indie Bookstores Are My Jam” mug. Outside the shop, Couture Tarot creator Megan Skinner gave 15-minute tarot readings as an IBD bonus sponsored by the shop.
In California and Texas
Julie Slavinsky, event director at Warwick’s Bookstore in La Jolla, Calif., said that the indie was part of the 12-store San Diego Book Crawl “and incorporated a St. Jordi's Day celebration as well.” The store purchased 360 red roses and gave away a rose to every customer who bought at least one book, “and we did a Knight & Dragon Storytime. The store was packed!"
McKenna Jordan, Store Owner at Murder By The Book in Houston, Tex., hosted live session of staff picks that drew several dozen people, including many viewers online. The shop was was busy throughout the day and offered a 20% discount on recommended staff favorites, which included The Song Is You by Megan Abbott and In a Lonely Place by Dorothy B. Hughes. IBD swag was selling too, especially the box of Blackwing pencils. "We sold 30 boxes last year, but this year were only able to get seven," remarked John McDougall, event coordinator for the store.
Brazos Bookstore, just down the street in Houston, was busy as well, though they opted to forgo selling swag and set up a tie-dye T-shirt station where shoppers could buy a bookstore shirt and turn it into a bit of summer fun. All in all, it was a typical, busy Saturday. "We've been selling a lot of books," said bookseller Mark Haber, who was also promoting his own just-released novel, St. Sebastian's Abyss, and offering to sign copies for fans. "We sell books and books and books. It's what we do!"