Shopping Local: A Matter of Can’t, Not Won’t

I’ve spoken about my embarrassment of riches when it comes to independent bookstores in my area. Living in Boston has its perks and I can count at least four indies that I’ve shopped at since moving here two years ago. Being entrenched in books and publishing and all sorts of industry talk, I am very familiar with the “shopping local” mindset and the general dislike of Amazon. While I wouldn’t describe myself as a fence-straddler, I can see the benefits on shopping online, especially since I grew up in a very rural and isolated part of Florida where the nearest anything was at least an hour away. However, whenever possible, I will happily give back and drop $50+ at a bookstore.

That being said, my reading tastes aren’t really being met. Spend ten minutes on Book Riot and you’ll notice that romance is on brand for me. It’s my wheelhouse. My bread & butter. My bookshelf is comprised of at least eighty percent romance novels, and I’m probably lowballing it. I also buy around three books a month, minimum. Most of the time, those happen to be romance novels. If I have any other reading needs, I’ll schlep to a store.

Out of all the bookstores in my vicinity (or those that I’ve been to – I think the only independent bookstore I haven’t been to in or around the Boston area is Papercuts in Jamaica Plain), the only one that carries a curated and well-stocked romance section is Barnes & Noble, and that’s not really “shopping local” in my opinion. I may luck out and find a few romances interspersed through the fiction section at Trident Booksellers, or snag a worn romance in the bargain basement at Brookline Booksmith. More often than not, I’m striking out and taking my money elsewhere.

I understand that part of an independent bookstore’s success is based on satisfying a need within the community. I really do applaud book buyers at indies because they really do have know their customer base and make sure they’re stocking things that will sell. And unfortunately for me, people who spend their book budgeting money at independent bookstores aren’t coming in for romance novels.

Of course, I support the plight of the independent bookstore and advocate for buying books at local stores, but at the same time, I do spend money at Amazon. Does that make me a hypocritical book nerd? Maybe? I don’t know. But I don’t really think I have much of a choice, considering my options. For now, I just have to carry around my book buying guilt. In this sense, supporting local business for my reading habit is more of an “I can’t” rather than an “I won’t.” That being said, any Boston indies looking to add some romance into their stock, I will happily play matchmaker.

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