As Amazon Opens Bookstore, Local Seller Fires Back with #ChooseIndie Campaign

As Amazon Opens Bookstore, Local Seller Fires Back with #ChooseIndie Campaign
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An independent bookstore in Denver is firing back at Amazon with an open letter using the banner hashtag #ChooseIndie after the corporate giant opened a physical bookstore in Cherry Creek, its first in Denver, on March 7.

The letter from Second Star to the Right Books — a locally owned shop at 1545 South Pearl Street — begins:

“The day has come. We all have been waiting — maybe with trepidation, maybe with anticipation — and Amazon Books has arrived in Denver. Therefore, we at Second Star to the Right Books wanted to take this opportunity to re-introduce ourselves, our bookstore, and the magic of an independent bookstore.”

The letter from the store, which recently relocated to Platt Park after four years in north Denver and specializes in children’s and young adult books, stresses what makes an independent shop special. It also name-checks other independent booksellers in Denver.

“Algorithms are great, but staff that has gone on your reading adventures with you and your kid over the years is better,” the letter continues. “Four-star reviews are helpful, but a colorful spine catching your eye is joyful. Amazon books is conveniently located, but Tattered Cover has been around for almost 50 years. Amazon books is cool, but BookBar has wine. Amazon Books has perfectly designed shelves, but Kilgore Books is as fantastically nerdy as you are. Amazon Books has great advertising, but The Bookies has experts in education. Amazon Books can ship within a day, but Hermitage books just around the corner can help you find that rare title you’ve been wanting.”

click to enlarge The banner image on the store's website. - SECOND STAR TO THE RIGHT
The banner image on the store's website.
Second Star To the Right
To find out more about #ChooseIndie, Westword spoke with the store’s manager and event coordinator, Mariana Calderon.

At the moment, Calderon says #ChooseIndie is only being used by Second Star to the Right, but her store did get in contact with the other booksellers it mentioned, such as Tattered Cover, which got its start in Cherry Creek, not far from the new Amazon store at 2787 East Second Avenue. “It's up to them if they want to share the letter,” she says.”I think every store will decide how they want to address it. But it's not part of a concentrated citywide effort. It's really more from us, a love letter to bookstores, to Denver, to put it out there that there's a choice. And one of these choices, we think, is better than the other.”

While online shopping is certainly a major area of commerce, Calderon says that the choice between Amazon and an independent shop like Second Star to the Right is most apparent when shoppers physically go to a shore.

“Having gone to an Amazon store and seen what it's like, it's such a different experience,” Calderon says. “The books have their 4-star rating reviews next to them. There are fewer books. The staff isn't really there to hand-sell you books. And it's much more about finding a popular book, according to algorithms, and buying it because it's convenient. The magic of a small bookstore is something that can't be replicated in a big-box corporate store like that.”

The letter has already been shared widely on social media, she notes, spreading the #ChooseIndie movement. 
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Chris Walker is a freelancer and former staff writer at Westword. Before moving to the Mile High City he spent two years bicycling across Eurasia, during which he wrote feature stories for VICE, NPR, Forbes, and The Atlantic. Read more of Chris's feature work and view his portfolio here.
Contact: Chris Walker