Indie bookstores nationwide celebrated the sixth annual Independent Bookstore Day (IBD) on Saturday, August 29. With stores in various stages of reopening around the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, celebrations took place both virtually and in-person.
This year, the celebration included a range of virtual events organized by the Bookstore Day team for all participating stores to promote. These events included drawing classes, book talks, panel discussions, and a Bookstore Day Ambassador Showcase with Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), Lauren Groff (Fates & Furies and Florida) and Emma Straub (All Adults Here).
Joanna Butler of Bel Canto Books in Long Beach, California, told Bookselling This Week that her store offered a mix of in-person and virtual events over the whole weekend, kicking off with a virtual author talk with memoirist Grace Talusan of The Body Papers on Friday, August 28. The store then held its first in-person (socially distanced) book signing in its back garden with debut novelist Diana Giovinazzo of The Woman in Red on Saturday, and a virtual story time with children's book author and illustrator Erin McGill of If You Want a Friend in Washington on Sunday.
“This was our first Indie Bookstore Day, our first in-store event, and our first big sales day since the pandemic started,” said Butler, “so we didn’t know what to expect. We were cautiously optimistic that we’d have a good turnout, since we’d been seeing the buzz on social media, and we were flabbergasted by the outpouring of support!”
“We set a big sales goal for Saturday and were shocked and delighted to almost double that goal with in-store and online sales,” she added. “I just can’t say enough how much we appreciate our reading community in Long Beach, the greater Southern California area, and beyond!”
Gwen Hunter of Solid State Books in Washington, D.C., said that though the store isn’t open for in-store browsing right now, it has been hosting a Sidewalk Saturday event.
“We bring a curated selection of cards, gifts, and, of course, books for kids and adults out on the sidewalk under our canopy,” Hunter said. “This past Saturday, for Independent Bookstore Day, we featured our IBD goodies and giveaways and partnered with another small Black-owned business, Bailiwick Clothing Company. We had a great time! Lots of folks came by and showed their support.”
“We had a solid day,” she added, “and the IBD merch flew off the table!”
VaLinda Miller of Turning Page Bookshop in Goose Creek, South Carolina, told BTW that her store celebrated with free prizes and drinks; the store had an excellent community response, with children in the community especially enjoying the store’s children’s room. Said Miller, “Staff, parents, customers, and others really enjoyed the celebration.”
Jeanne Blazo and Jeri Kay Thomas of 2 Dandelions Bookshop in Brighton, Michigan, celebrated their first Independent Bookstore Day this year.
“We were able to celebrate our very first Independent Bookstore Day by celebrating our love of books and our reading community both inside and outside. Our shop was filled with good energy, great books, and giveaways,” said Blazo and Thomas. “Book lovers stopped and shopped at our outdoor reading space, and families enjoyed our outdoor story time as we read The Little Engine That Could.”
They added that when they were reading to children, “all was right with the world.”
Paul Hanson of Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, told BTW that to celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, the store sold IBD merch and offered customers their pick of one of the many ARCs accumulated during their two-month closure. “They were super thrilled!” he said.
Marc Lamont Hill of Uncle Bobbie’s Books and Coffee in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, said that Independent Bookstore Day went amazingly well at his store.
Said Lamont, “We received an extraordinary amount of support from both our customers based in the city and from supporters around the world. Our brick-and-mortar store was open, and we had just experienced a robbery, so it was even more so a level of support and commitment to independent bookstores that we’d ever really seen before. We had lines around the block. There was a line wrapped around the store for eight hours as we moved people in and out, observing social distancing guidelines.”
“In addition to just having our normal bookstore operation and having normal sales, we also did a series of online book talks, where we had multiple authors across a range of genres have one-on-one sit-down conversations with me, and with journalists and other authors, and we did an online children’s story time,” he added. “We really want to show some of the things that we do that make us who we are, that are very different from a large, big box retailer or an online Amazon-type store. We want to show our connection to community. But we also want to show our ability, especially in the era of COVID, to be able to operate digitally, and also at a national or international conscience.”