Monday Musings: Bookstore Times, and 'Book Deserts'
We are lucky to have a popular independent bookstore near where we live, and over the weekend my daughter got to meet one of her fave authors—Amy Ignatow, who writes and draws The Popularity Papers series of children's books. There were cupcakes, the latest adventures in the life of rising seventh-graders Lydia and Julie (available that day to the kids but not yet in general release), and questions, questions, questions about the book and its characters. I thoroughly enjoyed watching a roomful of middle-grade girls fascinated to learn about the creative process of a writer.
Mom and dad, meanwhile, scoped out the shelves and found some books, as well as a birthday present for our daughter's classmate. It's been said a million times, but there really is no replacing the discoverability of physical browsing.
Our local indie—Children's Book World in Haverford, Pa.—finds itself in the enviable position of not only being well-known on the author circuit, but left standing alone after the closing of two nearby Borders in 2011. Ergo, they get everybody: from Suzanne Collins to Cal Ripken Jr., Mo Willems (Elephant and Piggie!) to Jeff Kinney. Lines for celebrity visitors sometimes stretch down the block—and this is a small store.
There are small specialty book stores like this all over the country, and with this kind of demand, I can't help but think there's a bright future for the indies. I just hope, with the demise of the bigger chains, we don't see the rise of "book deserts"—areas where children grow up without ever seeing a bookstore, because more affluent areas are better able to support boutique businesses of this type. Shifts in the book retail landscape point to the critical importance of libraries to ensure all kids continue to have interactions with physical books, authors and book experts.