According to the American Booksellers Association, Independent Bookstore Day (Saturday, April 29) is second only to Christmas for many indie bookstores in terms of sales, and in the David-and-Goliath battle between the local brick-and-mortars and online giants like Amazon, more is at risk than just a few more empty storefronts lining Houston streets.
For Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop, “indie bookstores are the modern-day town square.”
“They are where ideas are exchanged and people connect over the power of literature,” she says. “[And] Indie Bookstore Day is a day for us to celebrate the community we've built with the greater Houston area.”
Benjamin Rybeck, general manager of Brazos Bookstore, agrees, saying “IBD always shows me what an indie bookstore actually means to its community: That it's not just a retail space, but also a gathering space, a cultural hub, a place for people to exchange of ideas.
“In our current social climate,” Rybeck adds, “I think this exchange is more important than ever.”
It’s no surprise that Houston’s own indie bookstore scene — including Blue Willow, Brazos and Murder By The Book — will be celebrating community this Independent Bookstore Day (now in its third year nationally) along with hundreds of others across the U.S. Rybeck hopes Houstonians will come by to see “everything good about indie bookstores rolled into one day.”
Blue Willow Bookshop
14532 Memorial, 281-497-8675, bluewillowbookshop.com
Blue Willow joins the fun with special one-day-in-store-only merchandise for sale, such as tea towels bearing quotes from Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde; a cocktail book with the favorite drinks of classic writers; a literary map of the U.S.; a signed, original print by Jenny Lawson; and an Elephant and Piggie onesie. Also available will be the Neil Gaiman special edition of Norse Mythology. Throughout the day, expect “sips and snacks,” free giveaways and, of course, some good conversation (also free).
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2421 Bissonnet, 713-523-0701, brazosbookstore.com
Brazos has a full slate of activities to celebrate Indie Bookstore Day starting at 10:30 a.m. with Mo Willems’s Storytime. The Houston Zoo will bring some furry friends for the kids to meet as they listen to the adventures of Elephant and Piggie. At noon, local author Chris Cander will stop in as a special guest bookseller, and Brazos will donate 15 percent of all sales between noon and 2 p.m. to Writers in the Schools, where Cander has been a longtime instructor.
At 2 p.m. get ready for some drunk coloring, the Cormac McCarthy edition. The Brazos staff has made some special coloring books for you while you drink McCarthy-themed cocktails from neighboring Under the Volcano. Only two colors allowed, though — red and black. If you’ve been a responsible drinker, stick around at 4 p.m. for the Summer of Austen preview reception. Brazos, in partnership with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Rice Cinema and Main Street Theater, will celebrate the life and work of Jane Austen all summer, and Jade Young, the artist behind the bookstore’s new window art, will be present as well.
And finally, closing the day at 7 p.m. is the Inprint Poetry Workshop Reading. Local poet Erika Jo Brown will bring her Inprint workshop students to Brazos for a special reading.
Murder By The Book
2342 Bissonnet, 713-524-8597, murderbooks.com
Though snacks and refreshments will be available from open to close, the day really kicks off at 1 p.m., when MBTB staff will take turns talking about the summer releases and events they’re most excited about during their Summer Book Preview (and, not for nothing, all preview titles will be 20 percent off for pre-order). At 4:30 p.m., Houston-based author Lisa Haneberg will stop in to sign copies of her new book, Toxic Octopus; as an added incentive to spend (like you needed one), any customer who spends more than $100 will be entered into a drawing for a year’s worth of VIP event parking.