Bookstores as Third Place

Bookstores as Third Place

Coffee

Photo by Edsel Little. Used via Creative Commons License.

Many folks bemoan the loss of independent (and recently chain) bookstores. Writers, for reasons of obvious self-interest as well as sentimentality, bemoan louder than the rest. As I prepare to head out in two months for my first book tour, I’ve noticed something.

My book tour hits as many “third places” as it does bookstores. A third place is a well-known social concept. Your home is your first place. Your work is your second place. And your third place is a hang-out. Traditionally, it should allow for lengthy lounging, eating/drinking and social interaction with a low cost of entry. It can be a pub, a coffee shop, a diner, nearly anything. I’ll be speaking at a library in St. Louis, a wine market/bistro near Chicago and The Writers Place in Kansas City. Any of those might be your third place.

But wouldn’t it be great – really great – if our precious remaining indie bookstores became our third places? What if, instead of all going to Starbucks to write or telecommute to our tech jobs, we could find the same sort of atmosphere at our neighborhood bookstore? (Mine is Skylight Books in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. Shout out.) What if there were as many tables and chairs and coffees and electrical outlets there as at a coffee shop? What if we all went there and bought lattes and a paperback in payment for the community space we occupy as we write our screenplays and PowerPoint presentations? What if bookstores were community living rooms and offices, as well as retail spaces?

I’m not the first to suggest this, I’m certain. But perhaps if we all suggested it often and vocally and then, when such spaces began to happen, we all took our $3.95 daily Starbucks habits down to the indie instead, maybe things would be better.

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