Friday, October 25, 2019

Friday Feature: Pay-to-Play...Bookstores?

When we were at the beach a couple weekends ago, I didn't have much of an agenda. I knew I wanted time to write and to chill, to hit some of the restaurants we like and to check out my favorite indie bookstore.

Most of my pre-professional jobs were in bookstores and book venues. In eighth grade, I worked as a page in the children's room of our small town library. My first summer job, not long after that, was in a used bookstore. In college, working in the campus bookstore paid some of my expenses and I spent my last summer as a 20-something working in a chain bookstore across town from the school where I worked as a counselor.

I always thought it would be cool to own a bookstore. My best friend from high school -- who spent some time behind bookstore counters herself -- was in on the dream, too, but it was a dream that never materialized. This was in the time before all the big stores gobbled up all the small ones and running a small-town bookstore seemed possible. Remember Kathleen Kelly in You've Got Mail? That about sums it up. The joys, the relationships, and the cold, hard reality.

Which is why when I find an independent bookstore I like (like Browseabout Books in Rehoboth), I make it a point to not only visit, but to make a purchase. Sure, I love Barnes and Noble and I love the prices at Amazon, but there is nothing quite like an indie bookstore. And, if I want them to stick around, I have to contribute.

So, when I found an article in the New Yorker that explored an interesting way of offering this support, I was intrigued. In his article, "Should We Pay to Enter Bookstores?" Howard Fishman explores a pay-to-shop set-up whereby shoppers pay a nominal fee to enter the store. This price of admission is returned to them in some way -- applied to a purchase, perhaps, or toward food and beverages shoppers can consume during their visit.

I thought it was kind of a cool idea, but many of the booksellers Fishman talked with disagreed. Turns out owning a bookstore is, for some, about more than loving books and making money.

A rather refreshing, if surprising, turn of events, which only serves to make me love indie bookstores even more.

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