People use crowdfunding to find the money to complete various types of creative projects using such sites as Indiegogo and Kickstarter. It’s not new that authors have been turning to crowdfunding to help publish their books, including the site Wattpad offering its own new crowdfunding platform. But there may be mixed feelings about an article from The New York Times that reports how several indie bookstores have turned to crowdfunding in order to stay in business.

Keep a secret

It’s no secret that indie bookstores have been struggling to stay in business. Big bookstores such as Barnes and Noble and the now defunct Borders hit smaller independent bookstores hard during their big boom. When Amazon hit it big with its low prices and deep inventory, indie bookstores had competition from a business only found online.

It’s understandable that non-chain local bookstores are angry and fight back hard. Fingers get pointed in many directions at why they have to fight so hard to exist. Both John Green and Ann Patchett have made passionate speeches in support of booksellers at conferences. So what does it say when a few indie booksellers use crowdfunding to make it?

So far, it’s been a one-time deal for the businesses featured in the Times article. The Spellbound Children’s Bookshop in Asheville, NC raised $5,000 to help with moving to a new location that will be more accessible with parking and building placement. Book of Wonder in New York City needed help last fall to cover finances and used crowdfunding as a last resort. Another bookstore manager raised money to purchase the closing bookstore and kept it open.

Is it a financial mistake for the businesses to admit they need help or is it better that they state the truth and create a sense of community assistance to stay open? One of the biggest benefits of crowdfunding is having that community be larger than the local square footage of the business. People who are fans of bookstores can help from all over, and those who are local can do more than just purchase books to help their bookstore continue to be available to them. Even $5 can help if many people are willing to donate that amount.

The New York Times article states, “Crowdfunding is sweeping through the bookstore business, the latest tactic for survival in a market that is dominated by Amazon, with its rock-bottom prices, and Barnes & Noble, with its dizzying in-store selection. It’s hardly a sustainable business model; but it buys some time, and gives customers a feeling of helping a favorite cause and even preserving a civic treasure.”

 

For every bookstore that did reach its funding limit, the article does not state if any tried and failed. If it’s a short-term solution, then what happens when indie bookstores need more money to stay open? Those of us who love books don’t want to see any bookstores close. Crowdfunding does afford us book lovers to get more involved. But we need to do other things if we want to see indie bookstores in our future.

I love my local bookstore, and usually block off significant time to ride the ferry and walk to it to shop and then enjoy their cafe while reading my latest purchase. But I’m sure that doesn’t happen as often as they might need in order to stay open. Whenever I travel anywhere, I always visit their local bookstores. I was extremely happy to see in one small western NC area not one but three different bookstores ranging from the new releases to used to rare. I went in all three and spent some money.

While it may not be a long-term solution, I’m glad that there are outlets like Indiegogo and Kickstarter where indie bookstores can turn to those who support them both locally and globally to stay open. I hope that more viable and sustaining solutions can be found so that it won’t have to be a solution for more. And on that note, go visit your local indie bookstore.

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