The number of independent booksellers in the U.S. is on the rise and thriving according to reports from the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and BookExpo America, the annual convention of the publishing industry which kicks off in New York City this week (May 25-27).
This is great news for hard-working independent bookstore owners like Sharon Wheeler at Purple Crow Books in Hillsborough, North Carolina, a lovely, historic town west of Chapel Hill.
I had the chance to visit her store while passing through the area last week. Wheeler is smart and savvy to have set up shop in downtown Hillsborough, a literary and artistic enclave, which is home to prominent authors Lee Smith, Hal Crowther, Annie Dillard, Allan Gurganus, Frances Mayes, Michael Malone, and Jill McCorkle to name just a few.
The shop is quaint and small, but it is boundless in reflecting Wheeler's passion and enthusiasm for books -- and local writers. Each title stocked on the shelves at the Purple Crow appears carefully selected, and every detail (down to purple feather bookmarks and a whimsical children's book room) is well thought out, reflecting Wheeler's warm and welcoming nature. Clearly, Wheeler takes pride in offering the personal touch, which has obviously contributed to the success of her business. In addition to regular inventory, the Purple Crow features books (many signed) by local and regional authors, sponsors readings and book events by these authors, and eagerly fulfills special order requests.
In the northeast corner of my home state of New Jersey, there are many outstanding independent booksellers, as well. Among them are Shaw's Bookshop (Westwood), BookEnds (Ridgewood), Womrath's (Tenafly) and Books and Greetings (Northvale). Each of these stores regularly hosts events with authors -- notable heavy-hitters and some first-timers. In Montclair, Watchung Booksellers, like the Purple Crow, boasts books and signing events by a diverse crowd of local writers who reside in and around that literary hub.
In this day and age, there is so much talk that the trend in book publishing is veering toward the digital market. Therefore, it's refreshing to witness the dedication of indie booksellers like Sharon Wheeler at the Purple Crow and those in my own local region and around the country who are seeing to it that writers and the printed page remain at the forefront of the industry. Bravo!
Photos (above) of the Purple Crow Bookstore and Sharon Wheeler by Kathleen Gerard (c) 2010