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July 29, 2009


JD Rhoades

"Those people walk into our store and ask if there’s a Barnes & Noble in town. "

Tell them no :-).

Sheila Connolly

I grew up in a family that always read, and always had books around. A trip to the few bookstores that existed then (Brentano's, Doubleday) was a rare treat. Now I write the things, and my literature-major daughter works in a local indie.

It's much like the corporate mentality that now dominates our national food production. Consumers have been duped into thinking that bigger is better, more efficient, and cheaper. What has been lost is the individual human contact.

I would not think of attending a signing (my own or someone else's) at a bookstore without buying something. That's a courtesy, and a thank-you.

Chris adams

Someone created a site and search engine for independent coffee shops which is really useful when you are visiting a town you don't know and need to avoid the chains.
Maybe we need something similar for independent book stores?

Chris adams

Oooops, i just checked and you can use it for bookstores too!

PJ Nunn

Well said, Kris! I'm still mourning The Mystery Bookstore in Dallas that closed years ago and hasn't effectively been replaced.

Beth Gray

This article had me thinking of the movie "You've got mail" I love small book stores, especially if they serve coffee. LOL The world is changing especially with kindle and others like mobipocket which can be downloaded directly to the PC, no kindle needed. However, I think there will always be a need for bookstores, but perhaps in a whole new form. This I think is what all business owners are trying to figure out now.
Beth Gray


I love indie stores of all kinds, and have had the good fortune to work in two independent bookstores; one with new, one with antiquarian stock.

Chains are fine, but do prefer "real" stores. And therefore, I'm very sorry when they're gone, for many reasons.

For example, Kate's Mystery Books in Cambridge, MA. Bless her for staying open so long. And if you're in Ann Arbor, MI, find Aunt Agatha's on 4th.

Lelia Taylor

Kris, thank you for an outstanding essay and for the kind words about Creatures 'n Crooks (my store).

I've never had anyone actually ask me where the nearest chain is unless I told them we didn't have the book they wanted and they couldn't or wouldn't wait for us to get it. What I do have, though, is people who talk to us about a book or author, don't buy, and then come back another time to tell us how much they enjoyed so-and-so which they obviously picked up at the library or a used book store.

As for authors, I think we have a much higher percentage who buy something here, and a few who have ordered their supplies of their own books through us and I have greatly appreciated that. What really surprises me is the number of local authors we carry, who are either self-published or with tiny presses, that don't support us. If he can't support me, why did I bother to support him all these years?

This is a crazy business and I absolutely love it, would not be closing if I didn't have to. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to talk books with a customer, maybe turn her on to something new and also learn why she likes an author so much that I just have to try those books, too. (No, gasp, I have not read every title on the shelf!) That's something you might find in a chain, if you get the right clerk, but you certainly can't find it on Amazon. I can only hope that blogs like yours will help people wake up to the ramifications of losing independent business of any kind and perhaps they'll start to really listen.


I had just come home from our local mystery book store when I read your blog. After a nice cozy chat with the owner, I left clutching the latest of Donna Andrews that I woke up wanting, and six used mass media that I hadn't realized I needed.

Why there and not the two chains in town? Cause Sara doesn't consider a smile and bit of good conversation a line item.


Thanks, Dusty & Sheila. Sheila, I always regarded purchasing something at a signing as a thank you, too. Most authors don't, though. I do have to say that the majority of our customers buy at many of the events they attend, but some clueless souls actually try to monopolize the author without buying anything, or even realizing that author is working. But I suppose we all deal with them at signings.


PJ, the Dallas Mystery Bookstore -- under the management of the great Geraldine Gallentree -- was a terrific store. We've lost too many good ones.


Thanks for the reference, Chris. I'll check it out.

Thanks for your good support of indie stores, Eileen & Elena. Really good point, Elena.

Leila, I agree with you -- it's a wonderful crazy business. I also love meeting the customers. The people you meet from behind the counter are just great.

Beth, I agree that business models do need to change over time. But if authors want bookstores to be around to shelve their books, and they want places that will host signings, they have to realize they have to do their part to keep indie stores around.

Dana Cameron

Great essay, Kris. I'm so sad to see C-n-C closing, along with Kate's Mystery Books, Black Orchid, and many others.

Julie Wray Herman

I am eternally grateful to Murder by the Book in Houston for keeping me in great reads -- and to Kris for blogging on this topic. It's important to vote with your presence and your buying dollars in local, independently-owned stores.

Don't hesitate to check out http://www.indiebound.org/ for the stores nearest you!

Brenda Seward

Kris , I absolutely loved your response to the customer's query about Barnes & Noble while standing in your store. I would love to think I would respond with the same kind of sharp wit to that kind of question. Sadly, I am just close enough to a rather large Barnes & Noble that I haven't had to worry about it yet. To our credit, we do our best to pretend they're not there. Our store doesn't try and doesn't want to compete with the Barnes & Nobles and Borders of the world.

On a more positive note, I was reading a post on another blog where they were complaining about the big chain bookstores,and noting they were what was wrong with the business and forecasting that small independent boutique -style bookstores were the real future of book selling. I can only hope their crystal ball is accurate.
We should all embrace the personal service and knowledge that comes from knowing and caring about your customers and what you're selling them. In a world where technology has broken down barriers and expanded access to knowlege about others, we've turned into an awfully impersonal society. That's something we should all try to change.


Thanks, Brenda! I hope that blog you read is right, too. Not just in bookstores, where we would love to see it, but it would be great to see a return of all kinds of independent stores that put personal service first. Sadly, we have turned into an impersonal society, and I'm sure lots of people would like to see that trend reversed. Thanks for the great comment.


Thanks for posting that link, Julie. Murder by the Book is a great store!

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