Friday, October 29, 2004

Feminist Bookstores

Amp's post that included his wish list reminded me of an important issue -- Feminist Bookstores.

Feminist bookstores (along with other independent bookstores) are closing at an astronomical rate. At the moment, there are just over 50 feminist bookstores left in the entire country, and more are closing every year. Large corporate chain stores and web-based stores are growing larger, and local independent booksellers are being forced to close their doors.

Feminist bookstores have long been an important part of the feminist community. Most of these stores offer far more than "just" books. They also serve as resource centers and gathering places for community groups. They often host a number of events -- from book readings to support groups to local activist meetings and a myriad of other types of events. My local feminist bookstore, for example, just hosted a class on "how to draw comics" led by local comic artist, Nik Arnold (you can also buy some of her artwork at the store). If the bookstore were to close, we would lose a lot more than a place to buy books, we would be losing one of the cornerstones of the feminist community.

The three main arguments I usually hear about using on-line or large chain stores rather than feminist bookstores are convenience, selection, and price.

Convenience: many feminist bookstores also have web shopping and shipping available. It really isn't any more difficult than buying your book at amazon or Of course, one of the nice things about and is the ability to design a wish list -- but you can always use one of these sites as a wish list, but enourage people to buy the book at a feminist bookstore.

Selection: most of these bookstores feature feminist books, for obvious reasons. But that doesn't mean that they can't order just about any other book you want. If you don't see what you want in the store, just ask for them to order it.

Price: as a smaller store, it's true that these places can't offer as many discounts. They aren't buying in bulk the way larger stores are. One thing you can do is see if there are any volunteer opportunities -- by volunteering a mere 6 hours a month at my local feminist bookstore, I get a 20% discount on every purchase. In addition, most of these bookstores also sell used books. And, in the end, one should think about where their money is going. I realize that there are some people out there who really, really cannot afford to buy anything but used books, and the selection of used books may be greater at or But for those who can afford it, isn't it worth it to spend a little bit more on preserving an important part of your community?

The Feminist Bookstore Network has an up-to-date list of feminist bookstores around the country (and Canada). When websites are available, those URL's are also given. Check to see if there is a feminist bookstore in your neck of the woods -- and if there is, consider supporting it. If not, consider supporting one in another area that has web shopping available.

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