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Independent Bookstores and Gen Z: An Impactful Relationship

In a time where everything is going digital, make sure to keep your books physical.

The front of a bookstore from inside.
Independent bookstores and their cozy atmosphere. Credit: Unpslash/Jason Leung

Although troubling times were brewing for independent bookstores during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z managed to breathe new life into the stores and incite exponential growth — in large part through social media.

Social media platforms such as BookTok, BookTwitter, and Bookstagram are home to book communities who have managed to make trips to independent bookstores a “trend.” This “trend” then became standard practice for those interested in buying books, with individuals choosing to purchase them from smaller local bookstores instead of larger sites like Amazon.

Although there are still many hurdles for independent bookstores, Gen Z has provided a small reprieve. Content creators have demonstrated considerable influence in terms of encouraging viewers to go to their local bookstores. This has created a fantastic beginning to a whirlwind of change within the book industry.

The Growth of Independent Bookstores

A photo of a woman at the register in an independent bookstore
A woman running a bookstore in England. Credit: Unsplash/Pauline Loroy

It is impressive that even in an era prioritizing the internet and digital consumption, independent bookstores can still flourish. We now see both in everyday conversation and social media that people would rather go to an actual bookstore than purchase books online. Gen Z is touted as one of the major contributors to this growth.

For one, the internet and social media somewhat benefitted these bookstores, with many creators actively stressing the importance of buying from them. A whopping 68% of Gen Z readers admitted that BookTok encouraged them to pick up books they otherwise might not have considered. Nearly half of these readers made their BookTok-inspired purchases from physical bookstores.

It is said that holding physical books and going to these small bookstores cultivates an appeal that could not be obtained by simply ordering books online or reading e-books. Because of this appeal, book sales shot up 13% year-over-year, and more than 172 indie bookstores opened within the US in 2022. The number could continue to rise, especially as the social media community around books grows.

Creators and Social Media

As stressed previously, a large part of the growth that indie bookstores are experiencing stems from social media. When recommending books or just talking about the book industry, creators always mention going to a local bookstore first. They film themselves making trips to various bookstores and going through their hauls. These actions have inspired viewers to visit smaller bookstores that don’t receive a lot of attention.

Creators also take creative and interesting measures to ensure that everyone can find independent bookstores.

@bookmarqbyemily

This map will help you find independent bookstores near you! And if I’m missing your favorite shop, DM me its info so that I can add it to the map! #booktok #bookstores #independent #independentbookstore #supportlocal #supportsmallbusiness #smallbusiness

♬ original sound – Emily 📚 | Books & Travel

In this video by Emily (@bookmarqbyemily), she showcases a map she has created for all of the independent bookstores across the US. This interactive map allows you to filter bookstores by state and by which ones she has visited herself. She also encourages feedback for any bookstores she may have missed.

Please be sure to check it out at BookMarq!

Alongside Emily, other creators are doing many different things to help increase the visibility of these bookstores.

Two side by side Tiktok screenshots of independent bookstores with a cat and dog respectively.
Different commodities are located throughout various bookstores. Credits: Tiktok/@epiloguebooksockford & @biancathebibliophile

Videos like these aren’t just on TikTok but on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram as well. All of these videos provide a new and interesting look at various bookstores all around the world, showcasing something that you wouldn’t get in retailers.

Of course, demographics other than Gen Z are also contributing to the rise of independent bookstores. But with the explosive popularity of BookTok and other social media trends, Gen Z is popularly credited as being a main cause.

The Importance

A photo of the inside of a bookstore.
The cozy and comfortable environment of an independent bookstore. Credit: Unsplash/Jason Leung

All in all, the importance of Gen Z’s impact on independent bookstores cannot be understated. Not only does the existence of these bookstores allow for more books to flourish and sell; but they provide a sense of community and belonging — something that is missing from retailers that have to abide by specific rules and standards.

While they may not always be the easiest to find, they offer a break from places like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. With publishing companies trying out new trends and practices, the need for influencers increases. These independent bookstores will require much more awareness to continue combatting Amazon and its discounts.

Gen Z is also vying to spread awareness of shopping ethically. This is another reason to support these small indie bookstores. Buying second-hand books lessens the amount of paper being used, thereby reducing deforestation. So by shopping at these bookstores, you are both getting a more worthwhile experience and helping save the planet as well!

Small changes like these may not seem very big in the grand scheme of things, but they add up. Eventually, they could be the cause of big changes in both the book industry and the world. So if you are ever thinking about purchasing a book, follow in Gen Z’s footsteps and check out your local bookstore first.

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Hi, my name is Sierra. I am a graduate of Montclair State University who loves reading and writing.

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