NEW YORK (AP) – Laura Romani, a Chicago resident with a background in education and library science, was thinking about a new career.
“I was at home a couple of years ago, reflecting on all the experience I had gained and how I wanted to help the Latino community, to be able to stand on my own two feet and enjoy my love of books and my passion for multilingualism. he says.
Solution: Start a bookstore. With the help of local pandemics and stimulus checks received by her husband during the pandemic, Romani launched Los Amigos Books, initially as an online store last year and now with a small physical store with a bright blue front in Berwyn, Illinois. It focuses on children’s stories in English and Spanish.
“Everything goes together,” Romani says of his decision.
Stores like Romani’s have seen strong growth and diversity in a year that helped the American Booksellers Association, a group of independent bookstore owners. According to CEO Allison Hill, the association currently has 2,010 members in 2,547 locations, more than 300 by spring 2021. This is the largest ABA of the year, although in 2020 the association tightened its rules and only allowed shops. especially selling books ”(more than 50 percent of the inventory) in front of the store that offers the books. The ABA no longer counts inactive vendor members.
Hill attributes some of the increases to owners who delayed renewing their partnerships in early 2021, reflecting uncertainty about the impact of the pandemic. But a large number of add-ons, more than 100, are stores that have opened in the last year, dozens of which are owned by people of different races and ethnicities. These stores range from Libelula Books & Co. in San Diego to Yu and Me Books in Chinatown, New York, the Modern Tribe Bookshop in Killeen, Texas, and the Socialight Society in Lansing, Michigan.
The ABA, a longtime white party, set up a diversity and inclusion committee last year after council president Jamie Fiocco approved in June 2020 – in the wake of the assassination of George Floyd – that the association had done enough to “break down barriers to membership and service”. Black, indigenous and colored. ‘
“The rise in BIPOC stores is a big change for us,” Hill says.
Like Romani, many new owners had previous tracks, or still have them on their side. Sonyah Spencer works as a consultant to help fund The Urban Reader Charlotte (North Carolina), an African-American bookstore that opened as a result of concerns about the Black Lives Matters movement and rising book bans. In Locust Grove, Georgia, Erica Atkins was a university professor and trainer who, while recovering from surgery, had a vision — divine, in her opinion — that she should open a store, now Birdsong Books.
“I’ve dedicated my life to sharing knowledge,” he says. “Every time I’m having a conversation with someone, I’m giving them book recommendations.”
In Ossining, New York, Amy Hall is vice president of Eileen Fisher, and she says her fashionable work prompted her to open Hudson Valley Books for Humanity. He looked down at his shelves and began to think about how he could apply the clothes to the sustainability reader. He decided to create a store that would offer mostly used books, otherwise it would reflect the economic and ethnic diversity of Ossining.
“I wanted to build a bookstore that would welcome people from all segments of our community,” he said. The new books he keeps in the warehouse focus on social justice and the environment, among other things.
After initial concern that the pandemic would destroy book sales, publishers have made huge profits in the last two years and have suffered from independent vendors. Hill and others feared that by 2020 hundreds of member stores would be closed. Instead, about 80 were shut down, and only 41 remained in business in 2021.
Independent book sales are a solid business, but rarely a safe one. It’s been a story of overcoming obstacles over the decades, with the rise of Barnes & Noble’s “superstores” that helped remove thousands of ABA members from the business in the 1990s, the latest issues like Amazon.com’s growing power or supply chain. delays and price inflation.
Spencer of Urban Bookstore says higher costs, especially rentals and shipping, have cost him more to achieve parity. Atkins of Birdsong Books has noticed a sharp jump in the price of Bibles, increasing the price of the King James edition by several dollars. At Changing Hands Bookstores in Arizona, buyer Miranda Myers has noticed several price changes, including Emily St. John Mandel’s “Sea of Tranquility,” one of the major literary publications of the spring, and the next in Rachel Smythe’s book Lore Olympus.
Myers said he was “noticing that these price increases are happening more and more lately.” At the same time, according to Gayle Shanks Changing Hands, sales are “up, very high. We had the best first quarter we’ve ever had. The store’s history and this second quarter is also rising. People are reading more than ever.”
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