Danny Caine, co-owner of The Raven Book Store in Lawrence, Kans., was a popular figure at various bookselling shows this fall discussing How to Protect Bookstores and Why: The Present and Future of Bookselling, which was published by Microcosm in late September.

Caine said he wrote the new book because he wanted to continue the narrative he’d begun in 2019 with How to Resist Amazon and Why. This time, however, he wanted to focus on independent bookstores and their “power and potential.”

In the book, Caine profiles a dozen indies across the U.S. as well as Biblioasis in Windsor, Ontario, and Shakespeare and Company in Paris. Each case study recounts the store’s origins, what makes it stand out, the challenges it has faced, and how the owner has addressed business obstacles, and outlines things individuals and organizations can do to protect bookstores and other local businesses. Such “action steps” include “be a reader,” “interact with bookstores online,” “be active in local politics,” and “link up with organizations who are doing the work.”

Caine chose stores he profiled because they “demonstrate the amazing possibilities for bookstores in the 21st century”—but many of them are also within a day’s drive of The Raven. “It worked well for me that there are so many progressive booksellers right here in the Midwest,” he said, noting that he made sure to feature stores to honor the legacy of Black-owned bookstores (Source Booksellers), as well as “the pioneers in the feminist bookstore movement” (A Room of One’s Own), plus radical bookstores (Red Emma’s). They all, he said, “made contributions to American bookselling: they all had an impact upon bookselling today.”

Biblioasis and Shakespeare and Company were included, Caine said, to spotlight government policies in other countries that are effective in protecting bookstores. For instance, France was the first country in Europe to pass a law limiting discounts on books to prevent predatory pricing. And the Canadian government supports the publishing industry through its Canada Book Fund, which provides funding for bookstores to improve their online businesses and other initiatives, while state-subsidized healthcare and less onerous student debt among young Canadians make it easier for bookstores there to hire and retain staff.

Caine said that, while he knew the gist of each store’s history prior to his interviews, he “didn’t realize the full extent” of the challenges each has confronted until he spoke with the booksellers. He discovered, for instance, that Danni Mullen almost closed Chicago’s Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery after George Floyd’s murder in May 2020 “because of the pressure” from a deluge of online orders that nearly overwhelmed the Black-owned store. Elsewhere, Caine learned that the booksellers of Loyalty Bookstore in Silver Spring, Md., acted as bodyguards to protect children and their parents from aggressive protesters during a drag story hour held in a city plaza in February 2023

Due to the positive response to his previous book, Caine said that he was not too concerned that the book might only appeal to readers who already support bookstores. “My goal is just to tell the story and to tell it in as compelling a way as possible,” he added. “Even a story that is ‘inside baseball’ can be compelling—and there are people interested in the inner workings of a bookstore.” He might have a point: Microcosm said its two editions of How to Resist Amazon have sold almost 40,000 copies in all formats.

After his deep dive into the state of bookselling, Caine pronounces himself “cautiously optimistic.” Bookselling, he said, “has a great future, especially if we find a way to retain and fairly compensate human booksellers.” Noting recent moves across industries toward employee ownership and unionizing, he added, “These are all positive trends, and they portend a better future for booksellers.”