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Some Surprising Good News: Bookstores Are Booming and Becoming More Diverse


Many stores have also seen a bump in profits. In a survey of booksellers earlier this yr, the association found that some 80 percent of respondents said they saw higher sales in 2021 than in 2020, and nearly 70 percent said their sales last yr were higher than 2019, Ms. Hill said.

At Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, revenue was up by 20 percent in 2021, and the shop made extra money last yr than it did in 2019, in accordance with the owner, Valerie Koehler. Mitchell Kaplan, the founding father of Books & Books, an independent chain in South Florida, said sales were up greater than 60 percent in 2021 in comparison with 2020.

Most of the latest stores that opened in the course of the pandemic are run by nonwhite booksellers, amongst them The Salt Eaters Bookshop in Inglewood, Calif., which makes a speciality of books by and about Black women, girls and nonbinary people; the Libros Bookmobile, a Latina-owned mobile bookstore in a converted school bus in Taylor, Texas, which stocks fiction in Spanish and English, and Reader’s Block, a Black-owned bookshop in Stratford, Conn.

Terri Hamm decided to open Kindred Stories in Houston, when her daughter, who’s now 14 years old, said she was bored by the books her mother was bringing her home to read. An avid reader, she gravitates toward books about Black girlhood.

“It dawned on me that she didn’t have an area in Houston to find and explore all of the amazing works out there which can be written by Black voices,” Ms. Hamm said. “There wasn’t an area curated along with her in mind.”

The rapid growth of physical bookshops is particularly surprising at a time when brick and mortar stores face crushing competition from Amazon and other online retailers. Many bookstore owners are also confronting latest uncertainty from a grim outlook for the general economy — labor shortages, supply chain snafus, rising rents and rates of interest, higher costs of products, and a looming recession that might drive down consumer spending.

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