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Independent Bookstores Matter Because People Matter.
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ABA and SIBA
ABA supports indie bookstores as community anchors, places which serve a unique role in promoting the open exchange of ideas, enriching the cultural life of communities, and creating economically vibrant neighborhoods. Learn more at bookweb.org.
The Southern Independent Bookseller Alliance, or SIBA, is a trade association which represents hundreds of bookstores and thousands of booksellers in Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and Mississippi.
SIBA exists to empower, promote, and celebrate independent, privately held, brick and mortar, commercially zoned bookstores in the Southern region. Learn more at sibaweb.com.
We get lots of questions. Maybe we can answer yours here!
That being said, we know we can’t hold this conversation without talking about Amazon. There’s no way we can’t, and we’re all about being a safe space for these kinds of hard, touchy conversations. We don’t want to shame anyone for using Amazon, simply raise awareness and explain the difference in how they go about selling books. Bookstores should always be a place where people can gather information, and then make their own decisions.
The reality is that Amazon offers a greater selection of books at faster paces and lower prices than independent bookstores are able to. This is widely due to the size of the company, the access to warehouses all over the world, and the ability to cut costs and corners. Physical bookstores simply can’t get books from anywhere in the world that fast or that cheaply. When you order a book, it has to go from the distributing warehouse to the bookstore, and then to you. If it’s out of stock, it has to go through the printing process at the publishers, then to the warehouse, then the bookstore, then you. When you just look at that book-getting process, we get it. But here’s where the difference really shows: Amazon’s recommendations are based on reviews and online sales and algorithms. Indie bookstore recommendations are based on the booksellers in your community who love to read, anything and everything, and will get to know you and your family and your friends, and help you find books that you never thought you’d love but do.
Amazon tried to rival this experience with physical stores, opening several around the same time that M. Judson opened her doors. But 7 years later, we are growing, they are closing, and here’s why: Amazon’s stores were reviewed as disjointed and off-putting, because they weren’t created by a human. The top ranking books, whatever they were, lined the shelves in the order the algorithms placed them. Nothing was personal, nothing was arranged according to how humans actually look at bookshelves. People walked in, and it didn’t feel like a bookstore.
Bookstores have always been and should always be more than just a collection of the top ranking books at any given time. They are living, breathing, growing, and evolving parts of both a community and industry. The machine of big businesses like Amazon just can’t replicate the humanity that indie bookstores embody.
At M. Judson alone, we host dozens of authors every year, giving them a chance to meet the booksellers who are selling the book they worked so hard on, as well as the readers they wrote for in the first place. At the same time, baby writers hoping to be published someday can come and make connections, meet other writers, meet readers, and learn about the industry they want to enter. Oftentimes, it is these types of connections made in person at indie bookstores that help writers climb the bestsellers lists, help even newer writers find the help they need to get started, and help readers continue to discover books they can’t put down. When the people and the books come first, everyone wins.