CBS News Airs Segment on Indie Bookstore Growth

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A news segment that aired on Monday, April 23, on CBS This Morning heralded the resurgence of independent bookstores over the past decade and featured interviews with American Booksellers Association (ABA) member store owners Becky Anderson and David Sandberg.

A shot of Porter Square Books' Cafe Zing featured in the April 23 CBS This Morning segment on indie bookstores
A shot of Porter Square Books' Café Zing featured in the CBS This Morning segment on indie bookstores.

The five-minute piece, “Once-endangered bookstores are booming again,” cited ABA data showing that between 2009 and 2015, more than 570 independent bookstores opened in the U.S., bringing the total number to more than 2,200. It also included an interview with Harvard Business School professor Ryan Raffaelli, whose study on the growth and sustainability of indie bookstores will be released later this year. He found that local appeal, a curated selection, and community events have helped indie bookstores compete with e-readers, chain stores, and online retailers’ price point and convenience.

Raffaelli, who has been researching indie bookstores for the past several years, told CBS correspondent Tony Dokoupil that the bookstores that exist in today’s market have “been sensitive and had the ability to adapt and reactivate some of the values that were there that may have been muted in a race towards trying to have the cheapest and largest inventory.”

Anderson, co-owner of Anderson’s Bookshop, which has three locations in the greater Chicago area, said buying a book at your local independent bookstore is an act of community-building, not just a consumer purchase.

“You talk to people, have someone treat you like a friend. Something they love, they’re going to share with you, too, and you’re going to love it, too,” she told Dokoupil. “You can’t get that online.”

Sandberg, co-owner of Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife, Dina Mardell, recounted telling his Google colleagues five years ago that he was leaving the company to buy a bookstore. His friends were skeptical at the time, he told Dokoupil, “because there is this narrative of ‘we’re under fire, were getting killed.’ That’s not the narrative now.”

CBS also ran a piece in September 2017 on author Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes’ bookstore, Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee, which featured an interview with Patchett and Lesley Stahl. Other recent articles citing the growth of indie bookstores in recent years include the NPR piece “Why the Number of Independent Bookstores Increased During the ‘Retail Apocalypse’” and the LitHub piece “Why is a Harvard Business Professor Studying Independent Bookstores?