Seattle Culture

Celebrate Indie Bookstore Day This Saturday

From Elliott Bay Book Co. to Third Place Books, Seattle bookshops are ready for the big day

By Sarah Stackhouse April 25, 2024

A diverse group of staff at Elliott Book Company getting ready for Independent Bookstore Day

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2024 issue of Seattle magazine.

When I was in third grade I fell in love with reading. The arrival of a new Goosebumps book turned an ordinary afternoon into a high-stakes thrill ride until, a few hours later, the book was devoured. I’d emerge from day-long reading sessions dazed, hungry, and very socially awkward. These weren’t just books — they were tickets to worlds that existed anywhere but where I was. Nothing else mattered.

This weekend marks the beginning of one of my favorite times of the year: Independent Bookstore Day. On April 27 our local bookshops will be celebrated for the community hubs they are.

28 bookstores across the Seattle area are gearing up to mark the day, including iconic shops such as Fantagraphics Bookstore, Queen Anne Book Co., Third Place Books, Left Bank Books, Elliott Bay Book Co., and University Book Store.  

The Independent Bookstore Day Passport Challenge invites book lovers to embark on a journey to all 28 stores between April 27 and May 6. Complete the challenge and earn a Bookstore Day Champion Stamp Card good for 25% off at each store. Last year, 370 champions rose to the challenge. Can’t make it to all of them? No worries. Visit at least five and receive a 25% off coupon valid at any single participating store. 

It’s an exciting time for Tracy Taylor, co-owner of Seattle’s Elliott Bay Book Co., a local institution that is celebrating its 50th year. Elliott Bay Books was the first bookstore in the nation to open a cafe back in the ’70s.

We caught up with Taylor for a chat about the significance of the day, how the industry has changed over the years, and what she’s currently reading. 

Joey Burgess and Murf Hall, along with Tracy Taylor, took the reins at Elliott Bay Book Co. in 2022

Photo courtesy of Elliott Bay Book Co.

 

What does Indie Bookstore Day mean for bookshops?

It’s a moment for people to revel in what a great literary city Seattle is. It’s unlike anywhere else. It gets people out into the community and excited about local bookstores. 

What special activities can we expect at Elliott Bay Books on Saturday?

We’ve got a treasure hunt, a crossword puzzle, and there’s a treasure box. We do “blind date with a book.” We have book-related Mad Libs for both adults and kids, and we have giveaways.

How does Indie Bookstore Day impact the shop economically?

It’s a day when our sales are higher than they normally would be on a Saturday. The foot traffic is a lot heavier. People come in as families, so we have larger groups of people.

What are the main challenges facing independent bookstores today?

Our view of the big box retailer, which is just Barnes and Noble at this point, has totally shifted. We don’t want to see them go out of business, which is not the way we felt 25 years ago. If they go, then fewer books get published. And we know they support communities that don’t always have an independent bookstore in them.

The digital marketplace has settled. Back in 2004, eBooks were a thing and it hurt us. There was a large shift, and then it shifted back to physical books, and now people read on both. The pandemic really, really made people appreciate books, and books from their local neighborhood bookstores. Everybody became hyper-local.

The main challenge now is the rising cost of books. Unlike other retail environments, the cost of our product is on the product, so the prices are set. Independent bookstores can’t discount, like how Amazon discounts everything. They use books as their loss leader to get customers, and we just don’t have the ability to do that if we’re running brick-and-mortar stores. That is really a challenge for us, trying to figure out how to meet the rising cost of books for customers, and trying to stay relevant in our neighborhoods and our communities.

What are you reading right now?

James by Percival Everett. It’s based on Jim from Huck Finn. He also wrote Erasure, which the movie American Fiction was based on. It really turns your world upside down from everything you think you know, and think you know about Huck Finn. It’s amazing. I’m also reading Robert Caro’s The Power Broker about Robert Moses. It’s 1,200 pages long, and it too is 50 years old this year.

We love memoirs. Can you recommend a great new one?

Manicurist’s Daughter by Susan Lelieu, and Nervous by Jen Soriano.

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