by Josielyn Dacayo
When thinking about buying a book that you certainly want to read, what is your go-to bookstore? Do you often go to big chain bookstores commonly found inside the malls? Did you know that besides those bookstores, the Philippines has several independent bookstores offering book lovers an exquisite collection of books in different genres? Perhaps you are wondering about the difference between an independent bookstore and a chain bookstore.
What is an indie bookstore?
An independent or indie bookstore is a retail bookshop that is independently owned and operated by an individual or a small group of people (Lee, 2014). An indie bookstore owner occasionally retails books from independent authors and publishers, often showcasing a curated list of local titles and other rare literary finds. Indie bookstores can be physical, virtual, or both. From the shop’s interior design to the products it offers, a physical indie bookstore often reflects the cultural and individual personality of its local community. Many independent bookstores emphasize both learning and comfort through their reading spaces, cafe beverages, and art displays. With their unique ambience, independent bookstores become suitable venues for group study meetings, book launching events, small writing workshops, and other literary gatherings. Of course, an overlooking picturesque view is always a plus. Thus, they are often valued for their excellent service, special selection of books, and long-standing cultural orientation (Lee, 2014).
Online indie bookshops are worth the same appreciation. They offer the luxury of browsing through a premium book collection from the comfort of your home. Even in the pre-pandemic period, some independent bookstores have already been operating purely through their websites and social media pages.
However, it was not until the surge of the pandemic that online indie bookstores became more popular with people – book lovers or not. This prompted the emergence of several other online booksellers catering to the needs of readers and literary enthusiasts hindered by COVID-19 restrictions.
Unlike an independent bookstore, a chain bookstore is a large-scale operation that commonly sells mainstream titles from well-known international and local authors. They normally do not order from indie authors or publishers. Such bookstores are commonly found in malls and do not have special amenities that many indie bookstores offer (Lee, 2014).
Independent Bookstores as the Hope of the Philippine Book Industry
Since the beginning of the 21 st century, many have been saying that bookstores were nearing their end due to the widespread use of technological devices. Certainly, the emergence of different online bookselling platforms and digital or downloadable books contributed to this perception. Despite the speculations, countless physical bookstores continue to survive business-related challenges until the present. Nonetheless, some bookstores have closed their doors for good due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the book industry, there are two kinds of bookstores readers visit – the indie bookstore and the chain bookstore. Some may see it pointless to differentiate the two. Both can serve as safe havens for readers, book lovers, or budding writers in the community, but to put it simply, indie bookstores create magic that chain bookstores cannot. Local independent bookstores have become stanchions of their localities as they support the core values of community, the creativity and convening of readers, writers, and like-minded individuals, and the sense of civility and contact between the customers and the bookstore operators (Rosenberg, 2018).
The role of independent bookstores stretches from supporting local cultures to boosting people’s interest in reading. Surveys conducted by the National Book Development Board (NBDB) have shown a decline in readership among Filipinos from 2007 to 2017. Although many Filipinos still read, the lower appreciation for reading and literature in the recent decade negatively affects the local book industry, especially small-time publishers and bookstores. So, how can we help the book industry? Simple – support independent bookstores.
Physical indie bookstores, in particular, provide places for individuals with the same interests to be connected personally and professionally. They can bring together readers, writers, and other literary enthusiasts, especially through events like book signings and club meetings. Many indie bookstores also support and organize events for local self-published authors and independent publishers, allowing them more exposure to the public.
Moreover, independent bookstores also aim to promote the local cultures of their respective communities, particularly to readers and book lovers. Local indie book shops help the Filipino book industry to continue surviving and striving amidst the adversities brought by the dominance of large chain bookstores and the digitization of reading materials. They play a part in boosting public awareness of Filipino books, authors, and publishers, as well as promoting readership in the country. Thus, independent bookstores are considered the
hopes of the Philippine book industry. By supporting local independent bookstores, we can help advance their goals and help the local book industry flourish.
Indie Bookstores to Discover
Perhaps now you are interested in visiting an independent bookstore. Luckily, independent bookstores are growing in number across the country. In case you are wondering where to find some, here are five indie bookstores in the Philippines.
Pumplepie Books and Happiness
Pumplepie Books and Happiness offers a collection of Filipino children’s books for the young and young at heart. It is the first Philippine online bookstore that exclusively sells local children’s literature from various local authors and publishers. Their collection features some award-winning storybooks that promote diversity, values, and the Filipino culture. Pumplepie offers their books at an affordable price range, so if you want to browse through a premium selection of local children’s lit, visit https://www.pumplepie.com. Pumplepie is also available on Facebook and Instagram.
Mt Cloud Bookshop
Mt Cloud Bookshop is a classic bookstore in Baguio. Instead of a typical commercial space, it gives the ambiance of home where visitors and readers can feel as if they have entered a book lover’s personal library and are welcomed by a grand collection of local literature. Their shelves are filled with local titles from various Filipino authors and publishers, both mainstream and independent. They also sell souvenirs, like postcards that show the intricate Cordillera textiles. Mt Cloud Bookshop does not only sell books and other items, they also organize workshops and book launches where readers can meet their favorite authors and artists. Their bookshop is located at 001 Yangco Road (corner Brent Road), 2600 Baguio City. They are also available and can be contacted on Facebook and Instagram.
Savage Mind: Arts, Books, Cinema
Savage Mind: Arts, Books, Cinema was founded in 2018 by Kristian Cordero, a highly regarded author and figure of Bicolandia literature. His goal is to address the lack of art and cultural spaces in Naga City, Camarines Sur. Since its establishment, Savage Mind has become a well-known bookshop and cultural space in Bicol. It has launched the works of several Filipino writers and promoted the various cultural and literary outputs of the Bicol region. Savage Mind has also helped the Agta Indigenous community in Camarines Sur to promote and sell their sculptural works through an art gallery. Like many other indie bookshops, it also has diverse projects, such as lectures on writing, spoken word and performance poetry, writing workshops for students and teachers, and video readings of local literature, including a series called Himati or feelings. Other video readings also featured the works of well-known writers like Michael Coroza, Alwyn Javier, and Mesandel Arguelles in commemoration of Pambansang Buwan ng Wika. Savage Mind has put in these efforts to flourish the Bicolandia arts and culture as well as to increase literacy and love for learning in the community.
Their bookstore is located at #5 Peninsula St. Mayon Avenue, Tinago, Naga 4400, Camarines Sur. They can be contacted through their Facebook and Instagram pages. Their books are also available on online shopping sites.
Roel’s Bookshop is a small bookstore on Maginhawa Street, Quezon City. It is owned by Roel Abaya, who started selling books online in 2009. It was in 2018 when he opened his physical bookshop. However, because of the pandemic, his walk-in customers decreased, so he decided to go back to selling books online. Roel’s collection of books features some rare and out-of-print literature, including some titles on philosophy. Today, Roel’s bookshop continuously widens the range of genres available to their customers. They also sell some antique collectibles. You can browse their catalog and order books through their website, https://roelsbookshop.com/. The online bookshop is also available on Facebook and Instagram.
Quriocity is an indie bookstore and craft store that gives importance to the development of familial relationships between parents and their children. Its main goal is to ensure lifelong learning among young people and adults through their collection of picture books and other gems in children’s literature. The bookshop also has a cozy corner for games, storytelling, art classes, pottery, brush letterings, and other activities that promote Filipino culture and engage children and their families. They offer a comfortable venue where visitors can enjoy a day of learning together. The indie bookshop is located at 2/F Crossroad Center, 77 Mother Ignacia Ave, Diliman 1101, Quezon City and is available on Facebook.
These five indie bookstores are just a few out of many existing online and in different parts of the country. If you are looking to expand your reading list or learn a thing or two about local cultures, an indie bookstore is worth your visit. Thanks to these bookstores, the local book industry continues to thrive and move further in educating Filipinos and advancing the arts and culture of the Philippines.
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