In the 1930s there were only 4,000 places you could by books in the United States. Fewer than 500 were actually bookstores. In the 40s, bookstores began to be more popular. During World War II with other commodities in short supply and available cash, people bought more books than ever. The popular Book-of-the-Month Club shipped its 100 millionth book in 1949. Consumers were catching on to the hobby that once belonged to the elite class in cities, and more middle class towns opened bookstores. Customers perused the shelves, read, visited friends at the book store, and savvy shopkeepers started book discussion groups to keep them coming in. Then came urban sprawl. The hardware store, the bakery and all the other special places on Main Street USA moved to the outskirts of town to nondescript strip malls, where they could be seen as new and modern. It was the 50s; new and modern were in vogue. Book stores held on, dust lay on the shelves and mildew crept across the fabric covers of favorite books, cherished by two generations or more. By the 60s, the pillars of business on Main Street were crumbling; the retail revolution had begun. Retire, sell, close, or move. Those were the limited options for the small business owners on small town main streets. The bookstores were in the shadows. When the 70s blew through, many small towns weren’t looking too healthy. Outside the towns the newly incorporated Wal-mart Stores, Inc., were bringing out shoppers who were learning a new past time, shopping. Families who spent evenings together at home reading, now had a new place to hang out, open long hours to accommodate shift workers. Avid readers discovered they could buy discounted books at their wonderful new Wal-mart Store. The small book stores lost their customers. Many closed their doors in the 80s. In the 90s, large chain bookstores made appearances in malls around the country boasting bigger is better, forcing the closure of even more small bookstores. In 1996, when Oprah Winfrey began her popular book club on TV, there were 12,363 bookstores in America. Between 2000 and 2007, more than 1,000 bookstores closed. Today there are 10,800 independent bookstores in our country. Their largest competitors are no longer the large chains, many of whom have also closed. The largest competitors now are online sales. The surviving bookstores have gotten more aggressive, more out-front, more creative, and their health seems to have stabilized. Next Saturday is independent book store day called Indie Saturday, or Indie Book Day or Indie Go-Go Day. Whatever your local bookstore calls it, support it. They need the loyalty of every writer, reader and consumer. Find an Indie book store next Saturday and go buy a book. If you are near Elizabeth City, NC, come to Page After Page Bookstore. They have a special day planned with food, music and authors signing books and reading to children. I’ll be there. What Indie Bookstore will you visit, support and appreciate?
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Deanna lives in the mountains of western North Carolina. She belongs to a local bookclub, SCBWI, Catholic Writers Guild, ACFW, NCWN and other writing groups.