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An independent bookshop in Stoke Newington, London

An independent bookstore is a retail bookstore which is independently owned.[1] Usually, independent stores consist of only a single actual store (although there are some multi-store independents). They may be structured as sole proprietorships, closely held corporations or partnerships (i.e. a small number of shareholders or partners), cooperatives, or nonprofits. Independent stores can be contrasted with chain bookstores, which have many locations and are owned by large corporations which often have other divisions besides bookselling.


Social roleEdit

City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco, 2010

Author events at independent bookstores sometimes take the role of literary salons[2] and independents historically supported new authors and independent presses.[3]

U.S. decline and renaissanceEdit

For a period after the rise of big chains and online booksellers in the 1990s, independent bookstores were under considerable financial pressure[4][5] and many closed due to their inability to compete.[6] Closures in the United States include Kroch's and Brentano's (1995) in Chicago, Gotham Book Mart (2006) in New York, Cody's Books (2008) in Berkeley, Kepler's Books (August 31, 2005), Printers Inc. Bookstore (2001) in Palo Alto,[7][8][9][10] A Clean Well-Lighted Place for Books (2006) in San Francisco,[11] Midnight Special (2004) in Santa Monica,[12] Dutton's Books (2008) in Los Angeles,[13] Coliseum Books (2007) in New York City, and Wordsworth Books (2004) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[14]

According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of independent U.S. bookstores increased from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,227 in 2015, an increase of 35%. A Harvard Business School study attributed this increase to the buy local movement and success in curation of interesting titles and hosting book-oriented community events.[15]

Documentary filmsEdit

Two documentary films, Indies Under Fire (2006) and Paperback Dreams (2008), explore the difficulties faced by U.S. independent bookstores in the new economy.


  1. ^ "American Booksellers Association". Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ Bookstores are bestsellers – independent bookseller Chapters: A Literary Bookstore is successful – includes related article on starting a bookstore 
  3. ^ "North Carolina authors support independent bookstore". Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Smaller Bookstores End Court Struggle Against Two Chains". New York Times. April 20, 2001. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Light in Oxford: How the vision of one independent bookseller has revitalized the heart of Faulkner's Mississippi". Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  6. ^ Babwin, Don (October 9, 2006). "Independent bookstores fighting chains, Internet to stay open". USA Today. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  7. ^ Time Running Out For Printers Inc.
  8. ^ Palo Alto Printers Inc. to close
  9. ^ MOUNTAIN VIEW / Books Inc. takes over Printers Inc. location
  10. ^ Saving a bookstore
  11. ^ "Clean Well-Lighted Place dimming its lights for good". San Francisco Chronicle. July 19, 2006. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  12. ^ (May 7, 2004). "Great Loss – Midnight Special Bookstore to Close for Good". Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  13. ^ "Dutton's bids loyal customers farewell". Los Angeles Times. March 31, 2008. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Closing store has them at loss for words". Boston Globe. December 1, 2004. Retrieved November 28, 2011. 
  15. ^ Bookstores escape from jaws of irrelevance

External linksEdit