In praise of small bookshops

As readers of this blog will know, I have recently purchased and am using an Amazon Kindle e-book reader – despite the difficulties facing those trying to do so from an address outside the United States. However, while on my recent visit to the US (now concluded) I also took the time to visit several bookshops. I browsed in the usual Borders and Barnes & Noble book superstores, but my favourite shop on this occasion was a small bookstore called Indigo Books, close to Kiawah Island in South Carolina. It is, when compared with Borders, a very small shop, but it has a wonderful range of interesting books, with fiction veering more towards the literary, and some interesting history books, and other books with a local dimension. The owners are extremely pleasant and helpful, and I hope my custom repaid their good service.

In fact, I have a particular liking for small bookshops. There is another such shop in Mullingar, for example, with a similarly interesting collection of books and very helpful service. I find that when visiting such shops I invariably walk out with several purchases, whereas I can go to Borders, or Waterstones, and buy nothing.In fact, if I want to buy a book from a source with huge resources and choices, I will usually now go online to Amazon – where in terms of bulk I now buy most of my books.

So what is it that attracts me to little bookshops? Not the small size per se – I am not a particular fan of small shops generally, and find myself attracted to the big stores with the mega choices. But it’s different with books. What we read is something quite personal, something that tells us something about ourselves and how we relate to the community. And a small bookshop, run by someone who has an obvious passion for reading, makes that link to the community in a particularly satisfying way.

So wherever I go, if I see a small bookshop and if I have a few minutes, you’ll find me in there. And I shall almost never leave bearing the same aggregate weight. And while I hope that internet retailing continues to thrive, I shall always do what I can to support the small bookseller, and I hope others will, too.

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3 Comments on “In praise of small bookshops”

  1. Ultan Says:

    Same principle for records, even if it’s only ploughing through stacks and stacks of 80’s CDs. If in San Francisco check out Amoeba records – and Green Apple Books. However, I do like the American idea of being able to sit in a Borders until midnight reading books and drinking coffee (or with a laptop pretending to study…:)). Shame we can’t do that in Ireland.

  2. teachthemasses Says:

    Icompletely agree with you. It’s the comfiness of the small bookshop and the possibility of what you just might find. I especially like second hand books for that very reason and would love to open one here.

  3. JasonRuane Says:

    In agreement with your point, may I suggest that if you are ever in Oregon, USA; spend some time in Powells bookstore. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Powell%27s_Books
    I visited it many times while I was living there, and almost strangely, I miss it.
    It manages to keep that small-store aura while being biblically large. (pun intendid).
    Tying in with another of your recent posts, they are refreshingly velo-friendly, having a bike rack at the front of the store.


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