These Locally Owned Bookstores Deserve Your Support This Holiday Season

Photo: Cupboard Maker Books

By Robin Shreeves

December 1, 2022

By shopping at these independent bookstores from Erie to the Philly suburbs, you’ll be able to check some items off your gift buying list, but the benefits go beyond that.

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 1900 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. The holiday season is one of their biggest sales times. 

There are many reasons to buy holiday gifts at independent bookstores. Of course, you’ll be able to check some items off your gift buying 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. 

These independent bookstores throughout Pennsylvania deserve your support throughout the holiday season as you shop for your favorite bibliophiles.

Cupboard Maker Books

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 8 different book clubs for all ages. For the holidays, the bookstore is participating in the Angel Tree Project, collecting gifts that kids in the foster care system have requested. Support an independent bookstore, get your cat fix in, and make a foster kid’s holiday a little brighter all in one trip.

157 N Enola Rd, Enola, Cumberland County

Midtown Scholar Bookstore

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.

Location: 1302 North Third Street, Harrisburg, Dauphin County

Newtown Book & Record Exchange

You’ll find a little bit of everything at Newtown Book & Record Exchange that’s been serving Newtown since 1981. As one Facebook reviewer noted, the store is “small but mighty.” You can spend hours pouring through the stacks and stacks of used books in the store—many are in such good condition, that you can’t tell they’re second hand. The store also sells used and new vinyl. Located in the heart of quaint downtown Newtown, there are several other small businesses to support just steps away from the bookstore so leave time to explore them all. 

Location: 102 S. State Street, Newtown, Bucks County

Photo: Newtown Book & Record Exchange

Otto Bookstore

Located in Williamsport, Otto Bookstore has been around since 1841 and is one of the country’s oldest bookstores, perhaps the oldest of them all. They carry a selection of new books, host a weekly Saturday morning storytime for kids, and from time to time have book signings and readings. The Williamsport Business Association offers a free Small Business Shopping Passport with 15% off one item or service at several local businesses through December 16, and Otto Bookstore is a participating business. 

Location: 107 W 4th St, Williamsport, Lycoming County

Werner Books

Erie’s Community Bookstore, Werner Books is a bookstore that 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.

Location: 3514 Liberty St. Liberty Plaza, Erie, Erie County

White Whale Books & Coffee

A home for book lovers, White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh 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. Their in-person and virtual event schedule is packed with author readings, poetry nights, writing workshops, book clubs, story hours, and literary series.

Location: 754 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County

These are just a handful of the many independent bookstores in the state that deserve your support. To find independent bookstores in Pennsylvania near you, search IndieBound’s Indie Bookstore Finder

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