Like so many small businesses, independent bookstores could really use some support right now. With Ontario back in what feels like its 113th lockdown, booksellers back to offering curbside pickup and delivery – space dominated by Amazon, which actually started as an online bookseller before it became the everything store.
Canadian Independent Bookstore Day is back to drum up support for the country’s independent page-peddlers. Though they can’t welcome shoppers into stores in Ontario, the event will return on April 24.
“Independent bookstores support cross-generational initiatives and offer inclusive spaces for important dialogue,” says Shelley Macbeth, the board director of the Canadian Independent Booksellers Association (and the owner of Blue Heron Books in Uxbridge, Ontario). “[They make an] integral contribution to the literary ecosystem and Canadian culture as champions of local authors and creators from diverse backgrounds.”
“They do so much for the industry and local communities, this is a day when we can return the support.”
Like its musical counterpoint, Record Store Day, Canadian Independent Bookstore Day used to draw people to brick-and-mortar locations, but that’s impossible right now. So instead, its holding a contest. Buy a book from any Canadian independent bookstore on April 24 or 25 and you’ll be entered to win a prize. Most of the prizes bring the social aspect that’s missing, offering Zoom meetings with authors and themed virtual experiences like teatimes, painting workshops, mystery-solving and bread baking.
“One of the fundamental qualities of an independent bookstore is the personal interaction with customers,” says Macbeth. “Prior to the pandemic, many independent bookstores had bricks-and-mortar locations only. Sellers had to work fast and invest in setting up an online business, while finding ways to continue these interactions. It’s been an immense amount of work to keep up.
“Silver lining, we’ve turned to books to learn, laugh and cope – and reading is on the rise. The wider public is pushing shop-local more than ever before. More people are falling in love with indies and appreciate how much they contribute to Canadian culture. If this appreciation continues beyond the pandemic, it will translate into more success for individual stores and more support for the sector overall.”
There are six shops participating in Toronto, and they’re still on-boarding more. Some of them are holding their own promotions, so check out their social media and head to the Canadian Independent Bookstore Day website for more.
Canadian Independent Bookstore Day in Toronto:
A Different Booklist (779 Bathurst Street)
Another Story Bookshop (315 Roncesvalles)
Book City (348 Danforth, 1950 Queen East, 2354 Bloor West, 1430 Yonge)
Bakka-Phoenix Books (84 Harbord)
Moonbeam Books (335 Jane)
UofT Bookstore (214 College Street)