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How to Visit 19 Bookstores in One Day

Emma Nichols

Staff Writer

Emma Nichols is a career bookseller. Though she expected to grow up to be a librarian, or a witch, she's quite happy with how things are working out. Officially, she specializes in children's books and manages their book fairs; unofficially, she is passionate about short stories and spreadsheets. When not evangelizing her favorite books to unsuspecting customers, she can be heard discussing books and bookselling on her podcast Drunk Booksellers. Her other hobbies include organizing her books, taking pictures of her cat, and binge-re-watching her favorite TV shows. Blog: The Bibliot Twitter: @thebibliot

Guys, my favorite holiday of the book world is coming up: Independent Bookstore Day. It’s Saturday April 29th, and it’s celebrated in bookstores across America. Inspired by Record Store Day, and started by California booksellers in 2014, Indie Bookstore Day is day when bookstores across the United States throw parties and sell exclusive swag. It’s a day to celebrate your local indie and the community that supports it. As an indie bookseller and general frequenter of bookstores, I’m a strong supporter of the community bookstores foster, the personalized service they provide, and the safe spaces they create—so of course I look forward to Indie Bookstore Day (or IBD) every year.

I’ve spent every IBD since its inception in Seattle and, now that I live there, the trend continues. See, Seattle takes Indie Bookstore Day VERY seriously. Each year, Seattle bookstores host a challenge: visit every participating bookstore (19 this year) and receive the title of Bookstore Champion and 25% off at participating stores for the entire year. I completed the challenge in 2015—its first year—and I plan to do so again in 2017. If you’re up for the challenge, I have a few tips for you.


Advanced Planning

  1. Convince a friend (or a few) to join you
    It’s going to be a long (and awesome) day. But it will be easier and more fun if you have someone to share it with.
  2. Know opening and closing times
    Every store will have slightly different hours. Check out the full list of participants on Seattle Bookstore Day’s Facebook page. Knowing their hours will be key for the next step:
  3. Map out your route
    Getting to nineteen bookstores in a single day is no easy feat; you’ll need to time it just right. Make sure to calculate extra time for browsing (you know you’ll need it) and traffic. I’ve taken the liberty to map out each store for you—but you’ll have to figure out the best route on your own
  4. Draft a To-Buy list
    There is much to be said about walking into a bookstore and buying something you’ve never heard of because a staff member recommended it or the cover caught your eye. However, you are going to be running around like a madman and—if you’re like me and feel the need to buy a book when you visit a new bookstore—a list of books you’ve been wanting will keep your purchases to a minimum. Of course, you should leave some wiggle room for the surprise finds.
  5. Know your swag
    One-day only swag will be available at all the locations. You will likely want one of everything, but your wallet will thank you for choosing just one or two things. Be mindful that not all stores will carry the same items, so if you see what you want, buy it. A full list can be found at
  6. Put together a playlist
    You will be spending a lot of time in the car. Consider downloading some bookish podcasts for the trip. But for those moments when you’re getting exhausted and irritable, I recommend a playlist of your favorite high-energy songs to boost your mood.
    via GIPHY

Day Before

  1. Gather snacks
    You should plan for a lunch break, but you’ll also need plenty of snacks to keep you going throughout the day. Avoid hanger at all costs.
    via GIPHY
  2. Pack the essentials
    Besides snacks you also may need: water, caffeine, cash, portable phone chargers, extra totes, and a book. What? There’s a ferry ride. You might need a book.
  3. Get a good night’s sleep
    You’re going to need it.

Day Of

  1. Enjoy the stores!
    Every store is unique and will be hosting different events, activities, and special giveaways. Don’t forget to pause in your mad dash and enjoy the experience. I recommend, at the very least, you take a pit stop at every store’s staff recommendations display—where staff members feature their current favorites; it’s a great, quick way to get a sense of the store and to find your next read.
    via GIPHY
  • Be flexible
    You may end up wanting to spend more time in certain stores, or get to a store sooner because you just saw on Twitter they’re doing this crazy awesome event at 12pm. You’ll have more fun if you don’t blindly stick to the plan. That said…
  • Keep an eye on the time
    You may be tempted to spend hours in every store. But remember, Seattle traffic is no joke. So give yourself extra time to get to every store, even if it means cutting down your browsing time. If you win, you’ll have a great excuse to revisit these bookstores (25% discount!)
  • Buy ALL the books
    Ok, just kidding. But this is a day to show your local indie that you’re happy to have them and you want them to stick around, so don’t forget to support them. Buy SOME of the books.

    I hope you find these tips helpful. Remember, if you don’t have time to visit all nineteen stores, you can enter to win some great prizes just by visiting three. And if you don’t live in Seattle, check out what bookstores near you have planned. These tips can be applied to any bookstore crawl, any day. I hear Brooklyn has one planned, or you can plan your own. If you do, I’d love to hear about it.