Mar 27, 2024 - News

Indy bookstores build community, find success

Illustration of a book smiling and reading another book.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Indianapolis is in its independent bookstore era.

The big picture: At least nine new bookstores have opened in the greater Indianapolis area over the last three years and another is set to join them next month.

Why it matters: This reverses a trend of independent shops and brick-and-mortar chains struggling to compete with Amazon and other online sellers.

Driving the news: Last weekend, 23 independent booksellers in the metro area hosted Indy's first book crawl.

  • Organizer Jake Budler, owner of Tomorrow Bookstore, said he's estimating around 2,000 people participated and averaged between five and six stops — making for 10,000+ bookstore visits.
  • No one was prepared for how successful the four-day event proved to be, he said, and it demonstrates that Indy can and will support its thriving ecosystem of booksellers.
  • "It's not a zero-sum game at all," he said.

What they're saying: The owner of Red Dog Books in Greenwood said they did more business on Saturday than they usually do in two weeks.

  • "You'd think 23 bookstores that close, there would be some turbulence between the stores but the OPPOSITE happened," the store wrote on Facebook. "Every single one of us is different in our own special way."
A store front that says the whispering shelf
The College Avenue shop will open next month. Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

The latest: The Whispering Shelf is preparing to open at 414 N. College Ave.

  • The shop, which will sell new and used fiction, nonfiction and children's books, will host a series of soft opening events starting April 20 ahead of its grand opening April 27.

The vibe: Owner Lena Burt said she wants people to feel comfortable hanging around the shop and reading.

  • It will have a couch and comfy chairs, bar seating along the shop's large windows and patio seating out front.

Burt, who started hosting pop-up book sales several years ago while searching for a permanent space, said she's excited to join such a robust community of independent booksellers.

  • "Everyone has their own niche," she said. "It's great for the community to have so many options."

What's next: Budler said a book festival is in the works for the fall, with the goal of making the spring crawl and fall festival annual events.

  • The festival would be hosted at a single location with stores represented in pop-ups or booths and focus more on authors.
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