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What Puts the Indie in Independent Bookseller?

With all the talk about the Price Wars of ’09 and Border’s closing of 200 Waldenbooks stores in the new year, it seems about time to take a closer look at those quaint little retailers known as the indies.

Like Godzilla on his rampage, the major chains seem to be taking over the book world as we know it, especially the online market moguls like Amazon. So do who really needs the Independent booksellers anymore?

We do.

It’s not the fantasy-land, glass-half-full ideal that indies care about the book as a book, not as a means of profit; nor is it the intangible, feel-good loyalty and trust that the 1998 chick flick “You’ve Got Mail” was dead set on encapsulating.

No, it’s a much more corporate concept: Indie’s sell the unsellable book.

Anyone can push a unit of Stephen Kings, James Pattersons, and Stephanie Meyers. But it takes the skill and tenacity of an Independent to apply the right debut author to the right niche market. With hundreds of books coming out each season of each year, it’s a wonder readers don’t have the NYT Bestseller list memorized. How else can you get in and out of the mammoth bookstore with a guaranteed good-read, and NOT spend hours scouring the shelves?

Enter the Independent. Like the Caped Crusader, these stores swoop in unexpectedly, saving us from the shallow, trashy $7 paperbacks and the $30 bricks of predictable plot-lines. Instead we discover the next Garth Stein, Greg Mortenson, and Michael Pollan. Why does it work? Because Indies have a target audience, and know, it isn’t anyone who can read. They know their books like they know their alphabet; and when it comes time to buy from the publisher, their numbers are small, but they can play a huge roll in making or breaking your book.

Let me put it this way, when buying your vegetables, who do you trust more: the Stop & Shop CEO, or the gentleman at the Farmer’s Market? (I’ve always been a bit of a farmgirl myself.)

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