This year as you make your New Year's resolutions to get in shape and stop wasting all your time on social media, there's one other habit you ought to try cultivating: Buy your books from independent bookstores whenever possible. That's right, it's time to ditch Amazon and even Barnes and Noble and take your business elsewhere. Namely to a locally owned bookstore. And why is this?
Well, there are plenty of reasons. There are boring ones like the fact that it's good for your local economy to not send money to national corporations instead of keeping it in your community, or that it's better for the environment than all that Amazon packaging. Those are nice side benefits, but there's also that local bookstores are just inherently cooler. They almost always have better atmosphere, and unless yours is run by snooty hipsters, they usually have a friendlier staff.
Contrary to what people think, independent bookstores aren't some relic from the past that's slowly dying out. In fact, they might even be making something of a comeback. And people don't have to shop there out of pity; they shop there because local bookstores are community landmarks. They do things like host author events, sometimes with local writers, sometimes with national names. They're more likely to contribute to local non-profits or other forces for good in your area. They also sometimes have pets. And cute animals surrounded by books are clearly the best thing to have ever existed.
Plus, indie bookstores are usually cheaper than you'd think. My local bookstore has a member program that allows customers to pay $10 annually and get 10 percent off all purchases. They also have a ton of used books that they sell well below full price, usually less than what I'd find at Barnes and Noble and comparable to what I'd pay at Amazon, especially after my member discount. And these programs certainly aren't unique to my beloved Boulder Books. You might be surprised what programs your local store might have.
And yet, for all these wonderful advantages, bookstores can still shut down if not enough people shop there. More than 1,000 bookstores closed between 2000 and 2007, and hundreds more have closed since. Every closed store means lost jobs, a decrease in local tax dollars, and generally not-nice things for a community. Even worse, it drives business back to Amazon with all of its questionable business practices. They keep their prices low by, among other things, treating employees at their warehouses like slaves and bullying their suppliers. Plus they may or may not be seriously developing drone delivery, which is just creepy.
I think I'll stick with the bookstore cats, thanks.
At the end of the day, shopping locally is just better. It's better for your community, better for your soul, and even better for your wallet if you play your cards right. But no matter what programs your local indie might have, they are still part of your community in a way that Amazon and even Barnes and Noble will ever be. Shopping there is something you can feel good about, and unlike your other New Year's resolutions, it won't leave sore from weight lifting or sitting at home alone on a Saturday because you gave up drinking so much. So take that money you were going to spend on a gym membership you know you'll stop using by April and invest it in your book shopping. You won't regret it.