In 2022, readers have plenty of options when it comes to buying their books. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in February 2021, 33% of Americans read in these digital formats and also read print books, 32% say they read only print books, and 9% say they read books in digital format only. Small bookstores, such as Indigo Bridge and A Novel Idea Bookstore in Lincoln have had to adjust and still keep a strong community.
Indigo Bridge is located on the corner of South 14th and B streets and highlights underrepresented communities in its bookstore, said Aaliyah Wells-Samci, director of operations and marketing at Indigo Bridge. Ninety-five percent of the books in the store are authors of color, queer authors, and women authors. In-store, Indigo Bridge focuses mostly on physical copies of books.
Indigo Bridge uses a website called bookshop.org, which does all of the online ordering and packaging for the store. The website started in January 2020 and is used by some independent bookstores. The bookstore also has a separate website that sells audiobooks, called Libro.fm, which is used because audiobooks have risen in popularity.
“Our audience is pretty mixed,” Wells-Samci said. “The same people who buy audiobooks will still come here, chit-chat with our booksellers, and buy a certain genre of a book they would rather hold in their hand.”
A Novel Idea bookstore, located in downtown Lincoln, deployed a creative way to sell books during the pandemic. In early 2020, most of its employees were college students, who had to move out of Lincoln due to COVID, except for the manager and owner. When they delivered books, they would dress up in fairy costumes, which they coined Book Fairies.
“We had to be creative and adapt as the old business model wasn’t going to work,” Katherine Bergstrom said, manager of A Novel Idea Bookstore. “It was also funny watching children press their faces against the windows and point as we arrived in our costumes.”
Erin Masada has been going to A Novel Idea for 15 years. She buys a mix of hard copy and online but prefers hard copy because she said she stares at enough screens throughout the day and it is nice to hold something at the end of the day.
Masada originally started visiting the bookstore because she liked to buy used books, which A Novel Idea Bookstore has. Masada also likes to support local bookstores, especially ones run by a woman.
“The environment at A Novel Idea Bookstore is very welcoming,” Masada said. “They let you browse without hovering and the workers are pleasant and knowledgeable. The cats that roam the store are also an added bonus.”
Both A Novel Idea Bookstore and Indigo Bridge use social media to communicate with their community. A Novel Idea Bookstore alerts the community of different events at the store or when the newest batch of books arrives on Facebook. The store partners with local businesses on various projects and gives a portion of bookstore’s sales to charities of their choice.
“Bookstores create opportunity and a judgment free environment, particularly about reading choices,” Bergstrom said. “As a small bookstore, it is important to treat our customers well and make sure our bookstore is a source of comfort for them.”
One of the events Indigo Bridge holds is First Friday, when a local artist displays some of their work in the store. The store includes promotions, food, and music on First Friday. The store also brings in different authors of all different genres to display their work and give the people the chance to chat with them. Most of their author events are children story-based as the store is family-oriented.
“In our minds, you start reading young,” Wells-Samci said. “You start reading to your kids and literature becomes a big part of their lives.”