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Reserve it at local bookstores

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Small bookstores give readers a unique environment to discover new favorites. Photo by Jada Gangazha.

SAMANTHA COHEN | PERSONAL JOURNALIST | [email protected]

“The power of a good book” is a common phrase in today’s society. Books serve many different purposes, from entertainment to learning. But what about where the books come from? What about the power of a good library?

Buying books can be as simple as going to a local Barnes and Noble chain. These bookstore chains offer all the genres you could wish for: from romance to science fiction, from mystery to historical fiction. But what the bookstore chains don’t have is a connection to the local community.

Enter independent bookstores. These bookstores are not owned by big companies, but small businesses owned by someone from the local community. Local bookstores like Irvington Books & Vinyl in Indianapolis, support the local community.

Elysia Smith, owner of Irvington Books and Vinyl, explains how her store supports the local Indianapolis community.

“An independent bookstore is guaranteed to put money directly back into the community,” Smith said. “In fact, they [give] 50% more donations than corporations, independent bookstores alone. For example, we do all kinds of community outreach activities. We stock a pantry in front of our store, and I grow vegetables and sell them for whatever price you can. The proceeds we get from those sales support the pantry, and that’s just one example of the things that [independent] bookstores across the country are doing to ensure they are truly a community asset.

Some independent bookstores sell more than books. Often, independent bookstores sell other items like records or local art.

“We do a ton of local art,” Smith said. “I help local artists make their own screens and prints of their work. We have drawers in the shop, and each drawer is painted by a local artist. Everyone has their fingerprints inside. There are eight. We sell a few small handmade things, but I like to focus on paper [artworks] – so mainly zines and printed matter.

Even though local bookstores are lovely and attract a wide variety of people, they often can’t compete with the prices at places like Barnes and Noble or Amazon. According to New York Times, in recent years, Amazon has beaten independent bookstores in terms of price. Since chain bookstores and Amazon are cheaper, customers often support large corporations rather than small, local businesses. However, Smith thinks smaller bookstores offer something that Amazon or Barnes and Noble can’t capture.

“I think I’ve always focused on business as being experiential,” Smith said. “I want people to come in and feel the vibe of the space and enjoy exploring. It really doesn’t compare to shopping online. Amazon has been a huge part of the industry since I started…it constantly affects all small independent retailers.

Although there is competition between companies, independent bookstores offer a wider range of options, rather than new mainstream titles.

Miranda Emerick, a sophomore in creative writing and race, gender and sexualities, explained why shopping at independent bookstores is beneficial for the shopper.

“I think it’s fun to [shop at independent bookstores] because they often have a very different book selection,” Emerick said. “Barnes and Noble have your TikTok Books and popular authors like Sarah J. Maas, but they don’t often carry small authors. Many of the independent bookstores I went to had books that I can’t find [at Barnes and Noble] and books I’ve never heard of. There was one [book], “The Unmapped Chronicles”, which I found in an independent bookstore, and I love this book. I think [the book] it’s so much fun, but you can’t find that [at Barnes and Noble] because it’s not a big name.

Different independent bookstores serve different purposes. Some places, like pen and rosesell vintage books and other vintage-related items, while other bookstores, like Kid’s Ink Children’s Bookstore, sell children’s books and toys. Independent bookstores offer readers the opportunity to expand their library.

Kayla Miller, a junior high education and history double major, said independent bookstores are better than chain bookstores because of this targeted inventory.

“I started collecting books,” Miller said. “Often at new and used independent bookstores you can find some cool old collectible copies or copies you don’t usually see. [in bigger corporate bookstores].”

Independent bookstores offer a unique experience that customers cannot find while shopping online.

Although local and independent bookstores are rare in the Indy area, there are a few hidden gems to visit in the city:

Irvington Books & Vinyl

black dog books

pen and rose

Kid’s Ink Children’s Bookstore