Saturday, April 29, marks the fourth anniversary of Independent Bookstore Day (IBD), a “one-day national party” at indie bookstores across the country. Inspired by the hugely popular Record Store Day, which has celebrated “the unique culture surrounding nearly 1,400 independently owned record stores in the US” for ten years now, IBD shines a light on indie bookstores and the communities that support them. What began as California Bookstore Day in 2014 spread nationwide in 2015. This year, more than 450 stores (from 48 states) will participate in the project. Spearheaded by the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association and program director Samantha Schoech, IBD offers limited edition literary items to generate buzz. While it creates solidarity by connecting the stores for advocacy purposes, the program also embraces the fact each bookstore and each community is unique and independent.
This year, the limited-edition literary art pieces, which are produced by publishers and available for purchase at participating bookstores, include “An Author’s Best Friend Canvas Pouch,” literary tea towels featuring food-related quotes from Oscar Wilde and Virginia Woolf, a Mo Willems Elephant and Piggie onesie, a vinyl edition of Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cantor, and signed drawings. Literary condoms, which were a big hit in San Francisco during IBD 2016, will be available at some stores. Each pack contains a half-dozen Charles Dickens-inspired “Great Expectations” condoms and a half dozen Jane Austen-inspired “Give Me That Darcy” condoms. Lastly, this year’s “Bad Citizen” Graffiti Stencil, a signature item on IBD, features a quote from Henry Louis Gates, Jr.: “Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice.” Not all participating bookstores carry each item listed, but the exclusive IBD merchandise generates excitement that fuels interest in the day.
The primary drivers of foot traffic and community participation are the special programs, events, games, and readings organized by individual bookstores. These events highlight the stores as community hubs and local anchors of economic activity. IBD’s promo material notes, “in a world of tweets and algorithms and pageless digital downloads, bookstores are not a dying anachronism. They are living, breathing organisms that continue to grow and expand. In fact, there are more of them this year than there were last year. And they are at your service.”
Each store has its own personality, and although Independent Bookstore Day is a nationwide event, each store interacts with their own community in their own way. For example, Battenkill Books in Cambridge will host a Poky Little Puppy Look-Alike Contest, a Make Your Own Little Golden Book activity, Little Golden Book selfies, and other activities. Throughout the day, community members will also serve as window dressing (sitting in the storefront and reading in shifts). At Oblong Books in Rhinebeck, author/illustrators Susanna Reich and Gary Golio and musician Robert Burke Warren will offer a celebration and sing-along of Pete Seeger’s protest songs, while in Oblong’s Millerton store, customers (21 and over) can enjoy a signature sample of Sloane Crosley’s “FRENCH 75” cocktail from A Literary Cocktail Party: Favorite Drinks from our Favorite Writers. IBD’s one-day branding and special merchandize unite the stores, but it is up to each independent bookstore to make the day their own.
Support is provided by the American Booksellers Association, Ingram, publishing houses, and others bookish individuals and stakeholders. In order to participate, stores must be members of their regional independent booksellers association and order a minimum of 15 total pieces from the IBD catalog of literary items. Although IBD has expanded year after year, some stores choose not to participate in the annual one-day event. Independent Bookstore Day or not, the indie bookstores in the greater Capital Region are a vital resource, and one we should continually celebrate and support.
Area Bookstores Participating in Independent Bookstore Day:
Battenkill Books, 15 East Main Street, Cambridge, NY
The Book Loft, 332 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington, MA
Oblong Books & Music, Millerton – 26 Main Street, Millerton, NY, and Rhinebeck – 6422 Montgomery Street, Rhinebeck, NY
The Spotty Dog Books & Ale, 440 Warren Street, Hudson, NY
Other Indie Bookstores You Should Visit:
The Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza & Little Book House, 1475 Western Avenue, Albany, NY
Market Block Books, 290 River Street, Troy, NY
The Open Door Bookstore, 128 Jay Street, Schenectady, NY
Northshire Bookstore, 424 Broadway, Saratoga Springs, NY, and 4869 Main Street, Manchester Center, VT
Inquiring Minds Bookstore, 65 Partition Street, Saugerties, NY, and 6 Church Street, New Paltz, NY
The Golden Notebook, 29 Tinker Street, Woodstock, NY
The Chatham Bookstore, 27 Main Street, Chatham, NY
The Bennington Bookshop, 467 Main Street, Bennington, VT
The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar, 11 Housatonic Street, Lenox, MA