Independent bookstores in Lakeland are coming together this week to offer discounts to customers for the second annual Lakeland Book Crawl. The celebration kicks off today and runs through Saturday, which is National Indie Bookstore Day.
“Last year was our first book crawl and we were so excited by the response from everyone, we knew we wanted to make it an annual event,” said Christina Needham, the owner of Pressed Books & Coffee and one of the organizers. “Each day of the week we will feature a different local bookstore, each with their own daily deals and giveaways, all while highlighting literacy, small business, and our customers.”
New this year, the bookstores will be fundraising to support the Children’s Home Society of Lakeland. According to Needham, each store will sell bookmarks and all of the proceeds will go toward supporting the organization.
Independent bookstores are resurging
Pressed Books & Coffee is one of the newer bookstores in Lakeland that opened in the downtown area in July of 2021. It sells new and used books, and books by local authors, as well as coffee and pastries.
“Pressed is a gathering space in our community for people to work, read, study, and engage in conversation; this idea of a “third space;” a place other than work or home that inspires creativity, connection, and joy,” Needham explained. “Our books are hand curated, purchased, and selected specifically for our community.”
Independent bookstores like Pressed are popping up all over the nation. According to the American Booksellers Association, its membership has increased 20 percent since 2020. The association believes 323 more stores are in the pipeline to open within the next two years, according to the association’s spokesperson, Ray Daniels. According to a study from Harvard, the American Booksellers Association reported a “49 percent growth in the number of indie booksellers, from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,470 in 2018.”
Needham said the technological advances are nice, but independent bookstores allow for people from all walks of life to come together and interact.
“Books have the power to bring people together better than most anything else can. They provide an escape, the ability to dream, the opportunity to live in someone else’s shoes. They help validate feelings and viewpoints, teach empathy, and share stories we may never know otherwise. Bookstores matter because books matter!” Needham said, adding that her bookstore offers Wednesday morning storytime for preschoolers and many other events, such as weekly book clubs and live music events.
As part of the book crawl, Pressed will have a special on Wednesday from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m., where customers can get a free coffee if they buy a new book. On Saturday, they will have a “huge celebration” for National Indie Bookstore Day, including kids activities and giveaways, Needham said.
Whereas Needham’s bookstore is a place to gather downtown, Bookends Used Books is where people on the north side of town go to find a wide range of used books, such as hard-to-find classics.
Owner Connie Russell hopes the book crawl will bring some much-needed sales. She was shocked by how many people stopped by her store last year during the book crawl.
“It was the best sales day in my 22 years of business,” Russell said. “I’m grateful they’ve included me.”
Bookends, located at 5100 US Hwy 98 N, Ste 4 , has about 100,000 to 125,000 used books in her collection. She specializes in classics such as books written by Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. Some of her other bestsellers include books in the young adult, and sci-fi fantasy genres. She said people from all over stop by the store, especially during the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo.
“It’s actually surprising to me. I had a man in from Russia. People from Scotland and Ireland, and every state,” Russell said, adding that most people find her store by researching used bookstores on Google.
She believes some avid readers are beginning to turn away from eBooks.
“A lot of people have come to realize there’s something special about holding a book in your hand. They like reading without holding an electronic device that needs to be charged,” Russell explained.
Local sellers fueled by passion, not slim profits
Russell said she’s been wanting to open a bookstore since she was 12 years old. In 2000, she was at a crossroads with her job and decided to go for it. She said she’s making the same amount of money she did back in 2000.
“I don’t do it for the money. It’s hard to make a living. The rent goes up every year. I would not be here without the support of my family,” Russell said.
Russell said her store has books in about 70 genres, including children’s books.
“We try very hard to have a vast array,” Russell said.
Competing against e-books and mega retailers like Barnes and Noble has been a struggle for her. But she believes her customer service sets her apart.
“I believe because this business is just me, people know that when they come in here, I’m going to do everything I can to answer their questions,” Russell said.
She offers a trade allowance, where people can bring in used books and get a discount on their purchases.
“Books are expensive. You can use the trade allowance and get half off your purchase and buy a lot more books. I have people who read a book a day or a week. A lot of my customers are seniors on a set budget,” Russell said.
Her trade allowance is good on all books except classics. During the book crawl, she’ll be offering 30% off, except on classics.
Here are the other specials being offered during the Lakeland Book Crawl:
- On Tuesday, Inklings Book Shoppe, located at 2120 S. Combee Rd, will have an Indie Author book signing and customers will get a free kids book with any purchase. The store will also be offering 10% off all purchases. It is open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 pm.
- On Thursday, Crash Bookshop, located at 3125 Bartow Rd., will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and offering 10% off all new books.
- On Friday, The Unbound Bookery, located at 1026 S. Florida Ave., will be offering 20% off all books from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Also on Friday, Little Bus Books, located at 1047 E. Main St, will be donating 50% of its proceeds to purchase books in Spanish for its “No Covers – Free Mobile Bookshop.”
For more information, here is the book crawl website.
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