On Saturday, booksellers across Pennsylvania will take part in the 10th annual Independent Bookstore Day, which celebrates indie bookstore culture with book exclusives, special events, and more.
It may come as a surprise but the number of independent bookstores in the US has risen over the past decade. The Independent Bookseller reports that in 2012, the country had 1,900 independent bookstores. Today, that number is 2,023. These stores account for 6% of book sales in the country, and in 2021 these independent stores sold about $10 billion in books.
There are many reasons to shop at independent bookstores. Of course, you’ll be able to stock up on items for your reading list, but the benefits go beyond that.
- You’ll support the local economy. Fundera reports that when you shop local, “spending $100 at one of the neighborhood’s independent businesses created $68 in additional local economic activity while spending $100 at a chain produced only $43 worth of local impact.”
- You’ll support community activities. Local bookstores don’t just sell books. They are spaces where the community can gather, often for free. Many of them have book clubs where like-minded readers get to meet. They invite local writers to do readings and book signings. They host children’s book hours.
On Saturday, shops across the country will take part in the 10th annual Independent Bookstore Day, which celebrates the indie bookstore culture with book exclusives, special events, and more.
These nine independent Pennsylvania bookstores are worthy of your patronage any day. Check each store’s website for details on Independent Bookstore Day specials and activities.
Cupboard Maker Books – Enola
Originally a used bookstore, for the past 20 years Cupboard Maker Books in Enola has also carried new books. The store has over 120,000 curated books on its shelves in all genres, plus three store cats and various foster cats that roam around the store seeking attention from visitors. The store also holds book signings and eight different book clubs for all ages.
Harriett’s Bookshop – Philadelphia
This independent Philadelphia bookseller, named for Harriet Tubman, the abolitionist who helped enslaved African Americans gain their freedom via the Underground Railroad, specializes in the works of female authors. Writer and educator Jeannine Cook opened the shop in the city’s Fishtown neighborhood in early 2020 and despite the challenges faced by brick and mortar shops due to the pandemic, her store has thrived based on her commitment to activism and dedication to lifting up like-minded authors.
Midtown Scholar Bookstore – Harrisburg
Housed in a series of interconnected buildings, including a 1920s-era movie house, Harrisburg’s Midtown Scholar Bookstore is an independent bookstore that The New York Times has called “a religious experience.” Inside the store, shoppers will find new, used, and rare books. There’s a cafe that hosts free coffeehouse-style concerts every third Friday, and Midtown hosts various events like poetry workshops and book signings that happen throughout the store each month.
Newtown Book & Record Exchange – Newtown
You’ll find a little bit of everything at Newtown Book & Record Exchange, a staple in this quaint Bucks County town since 1981. You can spend hours pouring through the stacks and stacks of used books in the store. Many are in such good condition, you can’t tell that they’re second hand. The store also sells used and new vinyl.
The Old Library Bookshop – Bethlehem
Since 1996, the mother/daughter team of Margaret and Mary has owned and operated this hidden gem of a used bookshop in the Lehigh Valley. The shop features more than 25,000 books on its shelves, along with drawers full of intriguing photos, maps, and assorted ephemera. This is the kind of shop where you can spend an entire day and feel like you’ve barely been there for 30 minutes.
Otto Bookstore – Williamsport
Located in Williamsport, Otto Bookstore has been around since 1841 and is one of the country’s oldest bookstores. The shop carries a selection of new books, hosts a weekly Saturday morning story time for kids, along with book signings and readings.
Pocket Books – Lancaster
Pocket Books opened its doors a year ago and has become a favorite among Lancaster-area bibliophiles for its eclectic inventory of books and special event programming, which includes Matrimony Mondays. What happens on Matrimony Mondays, you ask? The shop, which has seen two engagements on the premises, hosts “micro-weddings.” Inquire within.
Werner Books – Erie
Werner Books focuses on supporting the love of reading and community engagement. With a well-curated and extensive collection of fiction and nonfiction books for all ages, the store has over 20,000 new and used books on its shelves. They host book signings, a Books & Beers Book Club, and school book fairs.
White Whale Books & Coffee – Pittsburgh
A home for book lovers, White Whale offers conversation, community, and culture to its visitors. Their selection of new books includes a broad range: contemporary and literary fiction and nonfiction, history, philosophy, poetry, children’s books, and more. The store’s in-person and virtual event schedule is packed with author readings, poetry nights, writing workshops, book clubs, story hours, and more.
These are just some of the many independent bookstores in the state that deserve your support. To find more independent bookstores in Pennsylvania, search IndieBound’s Indie Bookstore Finder.
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