7.13: Design a 21st Century Indie Bookstore

How often do you visit your local bookstore?

Do you even have a bookstore near where you live?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there is one bookstore for every 54,299 persons in the United States (“Don’t Turn the Page on Bookstores,” Hait, 2021). California, with the most people, has the most bookstores.

Still, millions of people in urban and rural areas do not have a bookstore nearby to visit. Book browsing and buying is hardly ever part of their media experience.

Picture of a bookstore with people reading books
Picture of Bookstore by LubosHouska is under Pixabay License

Despite the enormity of book sales through Amazon, the rise of eBooks, the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a decline in book and magazine reading among young people, bookstores remain prominent features of today’s media environment.

In fact, bookstores have been rebounding in recent years -- book sales have increased, young people are elevating books on TikTok (see "The rise of BookTok: meet the teen influencers pushing books up the charts"), and “Indie” bookstores are operating in communities all across the country.

An “Indie” (or independent) bookstore is a store that is independently owned and not part of a large chain, like Barnes & Noble. In the century before Amazon was founded in 1994, most bookstores were independent. Then, large chains and online providers took over and independent stores declined. But now people are beginning to return to the in-person experiences a bookstore offers.

Does a bookstore, whether independently owned or part of a large chain, have a civics learning role? While bookstores are private enterprises and not public organizations, they are places to go for ideas and information, and every member of our society uses ideas and information to make choices and decisions about political issues. Every bookstore -- through the materials it carries and the ways it makes those materials visible and accessible to customers -- plays a role in how people think about government, public policies, and social and political change.

How would you design an Indie bookstore to meet the needs of 21st-century people, notably children and young adults, in your community, and help them to be informed participants in a democratic society and government? In the following activity, you will respond to this question.

Activity: Design Your Own Indie Bookstore

In past years, to get more customers, bookstores have added in-store features like free Internet access, coffee shops, reading nooks with comfortable chairs and pillows, additional products (e.g., toys, cards, and art supplies), free or low-cost educational workshops for children, and adults, and targeted selections of books, magazines and other reading materials. There is even a new app, Tertulia, that seeks to replicate some of the actual bookstore experience by using a mix of artificial intelligence information and suggestions by human editors to generate a daily listing of five books you might want to read.

Connecting to the Building Democracy for All eBook

Building Democracy for All: Freedom of the Press and News/Media Literacy


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