Written by Caitlin Smith
According to Publishers Weekly, sales of print books are up 1.9% from 2016 to 2017. On the surface, and, unless you happen to be into economics, that number is just that: a number. I certainly don’t pretend to understand the intricacies of the open market, but when you combine this with the fact that indie bookshops have reported similar growth—gains of 2.6% from 2016 to 2017—the story gets more interesting.
Americans are taking a stand against ignorance and corporate greed through books.
Fundamentally, books open you up to points of view and situations that you’re unlikely to encounter in your day-to-day life. We read to explore the unknown. Typically, we learn from that unknown and emerge as better, well-rounded people. Whether you’re reading The Hate U Give, a New York Times best-seller by Angie Thomas, or Ron Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton, the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical, the experience broadens your horizons; something will stick with you after the book is closed and returned to the shelf.
In the age of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, bookworms might not always think to support independent bookstores. It’s easy to pop into good ole’ B&N or use your one-click ordering to get your next read shipped to you for free. But even if you’ve never seen You’ve Got Mail, it’s nearly impossible to escape the impersonal experience that these shopping experiences perpetuate. As more and more comes out about the corporate greed or unsafe working conditions for warehouse workers, the ethical move is to prioritize smaller, locally owned businesses.
I love Barnes & Noble as much as the next girl, but I vastly prefer Austin’s own BookPeople. Something about the handwritten staff recommendations and local merchandise makes me want to spend what little money I, as a broke college student, have there. As Jamie Thomas, of Chicago bookstore Women and Children First said, “So many shoppers told me that they were doing their holiday shopping at our store because they were grateful to have a feminist, politically active space in their community.”
Larger chain bookstores might attempt a “woke” persona, but it packs a bigger punch coming from a less corporate setting.
2017 was, by and large, a mess. No matter your place on the political spectrum, we can agree that things have happened that would once be relegated to a season finale of The West Wing or really bad Lifetime movies. The idea of curling into a ball for the rest of time has never seemed more appealing. But, as it would turn out, Americans aren’t making themselves at home in the fetal position. Instead, they’re reading, learning, and growing.