The Rise of the Independent Bookstore

03/29/2015 12:01 pm ET | Updated May 29, 2015

Given that you're reading a post about bookstores written by a word nerd from Grammarly for HuffPost Books, we can safely assume that you're a reader. So where do you buy books?

A few years ago, your answer was probably a big box chain like Borders, Barnes and Noble, or online superstore, Amazon. Local independent bookstores were on the decline, and it seemed only a matter of time before they became a quaint relic of the past - like soda fountains or knowing your neighbors by name.

When Borders closed its doors in 2011 after 40 years in business, many saw it as the beginning of the end. Waldenbooks and B. Dalton, two of the largest bookstore chains, had already shuttered, leaving Barnes and Noble and discount chain Books-A-Million to duke it out in the brick-and-mortar bookstore space.

But then something remarkable happened. It turned out that reports of the death of the indie bookstore were greatly exaggerated.

In part because of the vacuum left by the closing of big box stores and in part because of the groundswell behind the "Shop Local" movement, independent bookstores are actually on the rise. The American Booksellers Association reported an eight percent growth in sales in 2012, and those numbers have continued to steadily, modestly climb.

Your Local Bookstore: Where Everybody Knows Your Name

According to The CS Monitor, community support is "the secret ingredient behind a quiet resurgence of independent bookstores." When you buy a book at one, you keep your money in the local economy, something that appeals to many shoppers. You're also more likely to find a unique selection of curated books and personalized recommendations from the store's employees, who are usually enthusiastic evangelists of the written word.

As Author Wendy Webb puts it, "They're places where you can run into friends and neighbors, or curl up in a cozy corner to read. And they're also beautiful book-filled rooms, each of them unique, with a character and feel all their own. I've never been into a bookstore I didn't fall in love with."

Like Barnes and Noble, many independent bookstores offer more than just new books. Cafes, cards and gifts, and other non-book goods are typical, as are used books and other media. But when was the last time you went to the B&N for a beer and a poetry reading? It's not uncommon for indie bookstores to become community spaces. And yes, some of them even serve liquor.

Indie Bookstores Adapt to Remain Competitive

The main downsides to shopping local are price and selection. Author Zachary Karabell admits "while indies cannot compete with Amazon's inventory, Amazon evidently cannot supplant indies as shopping and social experiences." Independent stores also can't offer the same deep discounts as chain stores or Amazon, but shoppers are increasingly willing to pay a premium to support local independent businesses.

But what about eBooks? You can't exactly walk into your local bookshop and download a title or two from them. Except that's exactly what a partner program between IndieBound, an online alternative to Amazon, and eReader manufacturer, Kobo, allows you to do. You can register your Kobo reader with the local bookstore of your choice, and then whenever you buy a book from Kobo's online store, a cut of the purchase price goes to your local bookstore. Neat, huh?

So the next time you're in the market for something new to read, head out to your local bookstore. You can find a directory of independent stores here.