The Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Challenge got a little harder this year. But I, and my Honda filled with fellow bookstore geeks, am up for it.
Independent Bookstore Day, to be held on Saturday, April 27, is a national event; a party celebrating the joys of locally owned bookstores, those magic places that smell of paper and coffee and endless possibility. Every participating bookstore will celebrate in its own way, offering special merchandise, games, live music, contests, guests and other treats throughout the day.
And there’s much to celebrate: Independent bookstores, despite the challenges posed by Amazon and chain stores, have seen their numbers grow dramatically in the past decade. Many of us, it turns out, still seek out the community that neighborhood bookstores provide: a selection of carefully chosen books, a pleasant place for coffee or a chat with a knowledgeable bookseller or a neighbor, an impulse or long-planned purchase of something delicious to read right away.
The Seattle area is home to a healthy number of such shops, with 26 local stores participating in Independent Bookstore Day: Ada’s Technical Books, Arundel Books, Book Larder, Booktree Kirkland, Brick & Mortar Books, Eagle Harbor Book Co., Edmonds Bookshop, Elliott Bay Book Co., Fantagraphics Bookstore, Island Books, Liberty Bay Books (two locations), Magnolia’s Bookstore, The Neverending Bookshop, Open Books: A Poetry Emporium, Page 2 Books, Phinney Books/Madison Books (two stores with the same owner), Queen Anne Book Co., Secret Garden Books, Third Place Books (three locations), The Traveler and University Book Store (two locations).
If you visit just three of these stores on the 27th and get your Independent Bookstore Day passport stamped, you’ll get a prize: a one-time 30 percent off coupon for any participating store. But if you do the full Passport Challenge and visit 21 stores (for stores with multiple locations, you only need visit one of each), you get the grand prize: a Bookstore Champion card, which is good for 25 percent off at all participating stores, for the entire year.
I’ve had a Bookstore Champion card for the past two years — it is, let me just say, quite possibly the only time my name and the word “champion” have been in proximity — and it’s a prized possession. (And yes, I’m fully aware that there are other ways to obtain books at a discount. They aren’t as much fun.)
Currently, I’m one of nearly 500 people who hold such a card; the number has grown every year, starting with just 42 in 2015, the first year of the challenge. It’s not easy to visit 19 bookstores — the number required in previous years — in one day, particularly when ferry travel is involved. You need to plan a strategy in advance, get up at a horrifically early hour for a Saturday, keep focused, and pray for good luck from the traffic/parking gods.
But it’s gloriously fun, with each store a chapter in the wonderful novel that is Independent Bookstore Day. I loved seeing a queue in the rain outside Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge (a line outside a bookstore? Be still, my heart!), playing book trivia games (and winning a book!) at the Neverending Bookshop, filling out an “Anna Karenina” Mad Libs at Elliott Bay Book Co., eating red velvet cake at the Secret Garden, and triumphantly finishing the day at Ravenna Third Place Books, about 12 hours after it began. And, most of all, spending the day with three friends — my beloved book club, of many years — talking and laughing and finding book treasure together.
This year, the challenge is a little bit harder, with a few new bookstores added to the mix: Page 2 Books in Burien and Arundel Books in Pioneer Square have joined the fun, as has the brand-new Madison Books. If you’re thinking about trying it, I have only a little advice to offer: 1) Visit seattlebookstoreday.com and carefully study the participating stores’ opening hours; some close early! 2) Plan your route ahead of time, assuming that everything will take longer than it probably should. 3) You’re not required to make a purchase in every store, but you might be tempted to do so; have a book budget set in advance. 4) On the day, consume LOTS of caffeine and pastries. (An appalling number of the stores have luscious bakeries in way-too-close proximity; some even offer tempting baked goods inside. Remember, Independent Bookstore Day knows no calories.)
And have a wonderful time — it is a party, after all. I’ll be happily breezing through 21 stores on the 27th, tweeting all the way (follow me at @moiraverse). Maybe I’ll see you at one of them, or more.
Seattle Independent Bookstore Day, Saturday, April 27, at participating bookstores; seattlebookstoreday.com