US Bookstores Are Celebrating a Revival

The resurgence of bookstores shows that people value their local communities


Community, Books
Choosing a book at a community bookseller.

(Dean Drobot /

For people who love to read, going into a bookstore is an amazing experience. They can browse the new releases, check out the sales, and even have a latte. This love of bookstores is sparking a revival of community booksellers.

But for decades, after the arrival of Amazon and other online booksellers, local bookstores were vanishing from main streets and malls. Even Borders Books and Walden Books, two US giant book chains closed in 2011 due to online competition.

But in the last few years since the pandemic, reported CBS News, there has been a turnaround and a resurgence of brick-and-mortar stores, both indie and large retailers like Barnes & Noble.

A pandemic twist
During the lockdowns, US retailors were hit very hard and many smaller independent bookstores ended up closing. But others managed to stay alive thanks to online sales.

Kevin Ryan, who has owned Green Apple Books in San Francisco, California since 1997, really has a passion for what he does. “I just love the part of it where I'm putting books in people's hands and shelving books and talking to people about books, it's a really fine way to make a living,” he told CBS.

For years he held his own against online sellers but then the pandemic hit and his revenues dropped 30 percent in 2020. He wasn’t sure he would survive. But when the lockdowns ended, something surprising occurred. People started coming back.

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“One of the things the pandemic did to people is it made them value their local neighborhoods,” Ryan said. “People understood that if they wanted businesses to survive they had to support them.”

Independent booksellers are mushrooming all over the country, reported Fast Company in 2023. From 2021 to 2023, 425 new indie bookstores opened in the US. Indie stores are thriving, with 70 percent of them reporting an increase in sales compared to the pre-pandemic figures.

Large book  retailers are rebounding
This resurgence isn’t just occurring in small neighborhood bookstores. Barnes & Noble opened more stores than it had in the entire decade before the pandemic, reported 6News WOWT, and is planning on adding another 50-60 stores to its current 600.

In Papillion, Nebraska, Barnes & Noble is turning a new page and opening a store in a city where a previous one closed years ago. The bookseller is taking over a former Best Buy store.

Janine Flanigan, senior director of store planning and design with Barnes & Noble told WOWT that for a while new bookstores were not happening. “We came to a screeching halt in terms of opening stores,” said Flanigan “We hadn’t opened stores in a very long period of time.”

Flanigan credited this growing trend to the need for people to get out and socialize after stores reopened after the pandemic.  “As places were opening, we found that communities used us as a gathering place to talk, to meet to interact, and there really was a renewed interest in reading,” she said. This translated into a demand for more bookstores, large and small.

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