This is the third year for the Independent Bookstore Day Challenge, in which hardy souls visit 19 Puget Sound-area bookstores in a day.
Oh yes, I’ll be getting up early. Really early.
Saturday, April 29 is Independent Bookstore Day, here in Seattle and nationally, and some of us book-lovers have some rather ambitious plans for the day. Mine begin, at the crack of dawn, on Bainbridge Island, then to Poulsbo, Edmonds, Bothell, Kirkland, Mercer Island . . . and maybe a quick stop for lunch there, before going on to 12 more locations in the Seattle area.
This is the third year for the Independent Bookstore Day Challenge, in which hardy souls visit 19 local bookstores in a day. (In 2015, 40 people made the trek; last year the numbers grew to 120, and this year should be much higher. I’m expecting crowds.) It’s a daunting agenda for what should be a lazy Saturday, and I can’t entirely guarantee that I and my two fellow-travelers won’t fall short of the goal. (As someone who has a hard time leaving a bookstore, I’m a little worried that evening will come too soon.) A glorious prize is being dangled — those who get their Independent Bookstore Day passport stamped at 19 bookstores will win 25 percent off at those stores for an entire year — and that’s definitely a big incentive. But that’s not entirely my reason for doing it; we all know where it’s possible to buy books at a similar discount without ever leaving your house or speaking to a person.
No, I’m setting my alarm on Saturday morning because, frankly, spending an entire day in local bookstores — both old friends and new acquaintances — just sounds like a ridiculous amount of fun. Independent bookstores have famously struggled in the age of Amazon, but they give us something we’ll never get online: knowledgeable, friendly booksellers; the company of fellow readers (who just might chirp up, when they see you with a book, with “Hey, I read that!”); the smell of wood floors, coffee and the pleasant mustiness of used books; the instant gratification of finding a delicious-looking volume and taking it home. I’m excited to visit the stores on the list that are new to me, and to check in with those I know — and to maybe end the day with a new book (or two or three).
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So, how to tackle the Challenge? (Those who hit the coveted 19-store mark, by the way, will be called “Bookstore Champions”; a label that would suit me fine.) I haven’t done it before, so I don’t have a lot of brilliant strategy to offer. (Here’s a post by a 2015 and 2016 Bookstore Champion; I like her strategy.) Plan out your itinerary ahead of time. Hit ferries, bridges, serious traffic areas as early as possible. Note which bookstores have onsite cafes (Ada’s Technical Books, Elliott Bay Book Co., the Poulsbo location of Liberty Bay Books, all Third Place Books locations, University Book Store). Pay close attention to the various opening/closing hours: Some of the stores open as early as 7:30; some close as early as 5. (This useful map gives all the locations with color-coded opening/closing hours.) Remember that for stores with multiple locations — Liberty Bay Books, Third Place Books, University Bookstore — you only have to visit one of each. And no, you don’t have to buy something in every store, though you’ll probably want to.
But mostly, just have fun with it. Independent Bookstore Day is, primarily, a party, and every participating store will be celebrating with special events — giveaways, treats, author visits, music, etc. (The Seattle Review of Books lists some of them here.) If you don’t feel up to the full challenge, you can still be eligible for prizes by visiting just three stores. Or just hang out at one favorite and you might see me, and a score of other readers, breezing through in a happy I-love-books daze. You can also follow me on Twitter, where I’ll be documenting the day: @moiraverse. We’re lucky to have so many bookstores and booksellers in Seattle; let’s celebrate them.