Celebrating Houston Independent Bookstores

In our world of online shopping, one-click purchasing, and two-day shipping, it’s easy to avoid going into an actual store altogether. Pull up at the curb and have my groceries brought out? Have toys, books, household goods, even clothes delivered to my doorstep? Yes, please!

Convenience is a busy mama’s best friend. However, sometimes I can’t help but feel we’ve taken a step in the wrong direction by sacrificing human interaction and community involvement in the name of convenience. Don’t get me wrong: I am supremely grateful for fast online shopping and all that it offers me in this overwhelming season of life with littles. But one thing I really want to focus on is awareness and support of the local businesses which serve as an anchor of support for the community.

One type of independent business about which I feel particularly passionate about is the independent bookstore {also known as an “indie” bookstore}. With the advent of chain bookstores and online shopping, it looked like these small, locally owned bookstores would be run out of business. And they were, at first. From 1995-2000, the American Booksellers Association {ABA} reported a 43% decline in independent bookstores. But about a decade ago, indies began to make a surprising comeback: From 2009-2015, the ABA noted a 35% increase in the number of stores, from 1,611 to 2,227. The question is: why?

I think it has to do with bringing back the community involvement and interest that indies can provide. Due to the majority of their business being face to face, local stores have the ability and resources to tailor their merchandise and events to their community. While a retail chain might provide a cup of coffee and almost every book you might want at a discount price, they still feel so…detached. Efficient. Cold. Indie bookstores, by contrast, give off a cozy, warm, and personal vibe.

Celebrating Houston Independent Bookstores |  Houston Moms Blog

Even better, each location, because they are owned, well, independently, is completely different! Some focus on books of a certain genre; some offer weekly story times and book clubs; some feature local authors and handmade goods; some even offer refreshments {I found one that served beer and wine!}

Independent Bookstore Day {IBD} is coming up on Saturday, April 30th. It’s a day to celebrate, support, and give back to the local bookstores that provide so much for our community. And after the last two years, these local gems need all the support we can give them. And good news! There are several indies here in the Houston area. Below, I’ve listed the local stores participating in this year’s IBD. If you live close to one, be sure to drop by for some fun swag, themed events, and exclusive sales. Even if you can’t get out to these stores on the 30th, consider looking for your next great read {either in person or online!} at your local indie bookstore!

KBB is a used bookstore that has been serving the Houston community for over 30 years. You can buy new or used, and they offer a system of trading in your gently used books for book credit on future used purchases. The store itself gives off a fun, quirky vibe with shelves and shelves of books and locally made crafts. This year, KBB is offering exclusive IBD merchandise, in store or online, available only on April 30th {while supplies last!}. If you drop by in person, you can check out some of their exclusive FREE giveaways. Also, be sure to keep an eye on their social media pages for a chance to enter into a raffle for a KBB gift card. Finally, they’ve partnered up with Libro.fm, an indie audiobook platform, to offer a “punch card” of specials and sales all week, such as a free audiobook when you sign up for a membership. Run, don’t walk, to check out these fun deals!

Blue Willow Bookshop has been serving the West Houston and the Greater Houston area for 25 years. This whimsical store features new books, games, puzzles, and toys for all ages! They host author events, book clubs, a weekly story time, and much more. In addition to offering exclusive IBD merchandise, they are giving away a giant plush Gaston, the bulldog from the adorable picture book Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio, illustrated by Christian Robinson. I’m personally super excited for their fun twist on IBD “Spirit Week”. They are recommending a few staff favorite reads, paired up with a themed cocktail! In the afternoon, they are offering a special surprise cocktail to sip on while you’re browsing. Drinks and book shopping?

Murder by the Book opened its doors in 1980 and has been serving the Houston community from its location near the Medical Center and Rice University ever since. This niche store feature mystery books of all kinds, mystery magazines, gift items, and collectibles. Their staff is incredibly knowledgeable on all things mystery related, and they also host tons of mystery themed events and author signings, including authors such as Dick Francis, PD James, and Patricia Cornwell. Join them on the 30th for Murder by the Book Recommends, where each staff member will take turns recommending some of their favorites. They are also planning on livestreaming the event for those who can’t be there. In addition, all recommended titles will be 20% off Saturday and Sunday, and if you spend $50 on Saturday, you will be entered into a giveaway for a basket of upcoming ARCS {advanced reader copies}. If you’re a mystery fan, you should definitely check out this store!

A special note for Murder by the Book: while they are not requiring masks for indoor browsing, they are requiring them for in-store events because of limited size and seating.

Located less than a mile from the Rice Village, Brazos Bookstore has been a stronghold of literary wealth for 48 years. In 2006, the store was one of the lone indie holdouts; the store almost closed down when the original owner announced his retirement. The local community would have none of it though, and 27 Houstonians came together to save the day. Brazos Bookstore continues to be a pillar of the community by investing in local authors through Imprint!, the University of Houston creative writing program, as well as several other local writing groups. This year, they are hosting a virtual story time with fun “color” themed books and a tie-dye party in the parking lot! They are also featuring several promotions, including 15% off any purchase of two or more of their Summer of Indies Book Club selections. You can also be the first to reserve tickets to their Summer of Indies Cocktail Night, and the first 50 customers will receive a free “Brazos is my happy place” sticker. Be sure to check out this standout Houston independent bookstore!

This sweet bookstore in downtown Brenham offers all that small town charm while still curating a diverse stock of new and used books. The Book Nook is composed of several rooms, each featuring different genres, that indeed look like a cozy little reading corner. In addition to the IBD exclusive merchandise, they are offering a free gift with a purchase of $10 {while supplies last}. Take the family on a quintessential Texas day trip. Have a picnic near the bluebonnets, cool off with some Blue Bell ice cream, and swing by The Book Nook to grab your latest read!

Village Books, The Woodlands newest indie bookstore, opened its doors this last fall on September 10. This lovely bookstore offers a fantastic book selection, unique gifts, gift certificates, and a wonderful array of community centered events. They offer multilingual children’s story times, author readings, writing classes and other workshops, and other special events. For their first Independent Bookstore Day, they will have giveaways, as well as face painting from around 1-2pm. Local author, Tracy Borgmeyer, will be there to kickoff the final book in her Halley Harper, Science Girl Extraordinaire series and science experiments at 3pm! Bring your kids to this new bookstore for a guaranteed fun Saturday!

Do you have a favorite Houston independent bookstore that we missed? Let us know about it in the comments!

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