Why independent bookstores are thriving, despite Amazon

The number of independent bookstore is on the rise in the U.S.

Well, this is embarrassing. You know the common narrative that Amazon's massive scale and cheap prices are leading to the demise of bookstores? Not familiar? You can find the arguement here, here, here and plenty of other places.

And while Amazon might have played a role in the fall of large book retailers, like Borders, Quartz points to some numbers that appear to be show that independent bookstores in the United States are thriving. That's because members of the American Booksellers Association, an organization supporting independent bookstores in the U.S., has actually risen in the last four years from 1,401 in 2009 to 1,567 in 2012. This year that number is already up to 1,632.

One theory for why Amazon's hurting big-box bookstores more than independents?

There is very little difference between big, impersonal chain stores selling books and a big, impersonal website selling books. Independent retailers, on the other hand, have a lot to offer that Amazon cannot: niche coffee, atmosphere, serendipitous discoverability of new titles and authors, recommendations from knowledgable staff, signings and events, to name a few.

I think Amazon deserves an apology. (Unless you're Borders.)

Photo: Flickr/Chris Guillebeau

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com