Tips & Advice

Why Independent Bookstores Are a Parent’s Best Friend

by Tom Burns

Photo credit: Lynn Koenig, Moment Collection/Getty Images

I’m a parent. And that means, by definition, that I am very tired.

So, as a parent, I tend to gravitate toward things that make my life easier.

That is one of many reasons why I love independent bookstores.

Indie bookstores — independent, brick-and-mortar bookstores — make life easier for parents.

Don’t believe me? I get it. On the surface, shopping for books online looks incredibly simple.

I mean, WHY go to a physical bookstore with a limited stock and (ugh) other people, when you can go on your phone and purchase almost any book published since Gutenberg in the comfort of your Crocs and pajama pants? That SOUNDS simpler, right?

And yet, it isn’t.

And I can prove that point with one word — GOOGLE.

Do you remember when we were first introduced to the search engine and were told, “Just type in what you want, press ‘Search,’ and you’ll get tens of millions of results on that very topic.” We did just that and we were AMAZED. All of that knowledge, all of those results, all of that … STUFF right there at our fingertips.

Cut to twenty or so years later.

I don’t think I’ve gone past the first page of Google search results in the past five years. And I’ve met children who weren’t even aware that anything beyond page one exists.

As someone who considers himself a “book person,” this pains me to admit, but 99% of the time, I do NOT need access to every book ever published. It actually makes things harder.

If you tell me “Hey, pick one book out of this pile of 80 million books,” I will freeze up. It’s too much. All of those books, without a lick of perspective or direction, it’s like white noise. I can’t see the forest for the trees.

If you think that sounds bad for an adult, think of how hard it can be with a child. When your kid wants to know what they should read next and you present them with 80 million options, yeah, nothing is getting read that day.

This is why Facebook now drives more online traffic than Google. Because people have realized that having 80 million search results just isn’t all that helpful on its own. We need a filter. We need help sorting through the static. We need people — people we trust — to take a look at those 80 million results and point out five or six really, really good ones.

Independent bookstores are EXCELLENT at pointing out the really, really good ones.

Yes, when you walk into an indie bookstore, they are not going to have every book that could ever cross your mind. Instead, they’ll have the books that SHOULD be crossing your mind. Because of their limited space, bookstores carefully curate their stock like librarians, making sure that they’re serving their customers by putting together the best, the coolest, the most thoughtful, original collection of books that could ever fit on their shelves and display cases.

Forget free shipping. Indie bookstores provide free context. They host author readings because they want to get those writers on your radar. They champion underloved books that they know, deep down in their souls, that you’ll love. They have those awesome handwritten shelf-talkers — those cool notecards where they let staff members make personal pleas about why this one particular book is so particularly awesome.

When it comes to book shopping — for yourself or for your children — they do all of the hard work for you.

When your kid walks into the children’s section of a great independent bookstore, imagine that they are walking into the most lovingly assembled search results page ever. Everything that surrounds them is page one results. Nothing was chosen by an algorithm. They’re not recommending THIS because you once bought THAT.

Indie bookstores exist because there are people in the world who want to share the very best books with you and your family and, as an exhausted parent, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that.

 

Do you have a favorite independent bookstore? A local gem that’s helped your family find the really, really good books? If so, let us know in the comments section below!

 

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