Celebrating Independent Bookstore Day across Maine April 27

Killer Road Trip: Discover the book you were meant to find

Take a drive. Find a good book.
Fri, 04/26/2024 - 9:30am

    MAINE—I have a theory about books you were meant to find and those which were meant to find you—treat a bookstore like the open road and see where it takes you. I have found books that have changed my life this way. 

    This Saturday marks the 11th Independent Bookstore Day across the country to support independently owned bookshops that continually compete against Amazon and big box stores.

    Grim stats but some slow gains

    It’s been an uphill battle for indie bookstores in the last decade with the Census Bureau reporting that the number of independent bookstores dropped nearly in half between 1998 and 2019 from 12,151 stores to 6,045 stores.

    But, here’s some good news: Amazon hasn’t nudged out brick-and-mortar bookstores, yet.

    The pandemic delivered an unexpected gift to flagging bookstores when people began reading more while stuck at home. Independent bookselling hit an uptick in 2022 with membership in the American Booksellers Association reaching its highest levels in more than 20 years. What’s more, readers were hungry for lesser-known authors in the new and diverse stores that opened nationwide.

    Indies in Maine


    According to a 2023 story by MaineBiz, there are roughly 37 independent bookstores in Maine. With a population of 1.3 million people, that works out to be one bookstore per 35,000 people as opposed to the national average of one bookstore per 54,299 people.

    Here in the Midcoast, we have a couple of new bookstores that opened in the last two years, such as Grump & Sunshine, a romance-only bookshop in Belfast. This sweet and salty store is only one of the hidden gems in Belfast, which also includes the fiercely independent Left Bank Books as well as Craig Olson Books (formerly Old Professor’s Bookshop) selling used and rare books. Farther up the road, Anodyne opened in Searsport just after the pandemic to wild success.

    In Camden, Owl & Turtle Bookshop is a homey, community bookshop with a café and Stone Soup is a hidden treasure trove of used books.

    In Rockland, hello hello books is a neighborhood favorite that encourages grassroots activism, while Sherman’s Maine Coast Bookshop is one of nine independently owned stores in Maine and a champion of local authors. Arctic Tern Books is another new boutique booskhop in Rockland with a cozy vibe.

    “We are really looking forward to Indie Bookstore Day this Saturday, not simply because of what it stands for—a celebration of all that independent bookstores bring to communities—but also because it marks our first birthday at Anodyne,” said owner Elly Burnett. They plan to have a festive first birthday party with balloons, cupcakes, and special drawings for gift certificates, and other bookish prizes. 

    “I’m so excited for Grump & Sunshine’s first Indie Bookstore Day,” said Cassidy James Taylor, owner. “All purchases will come with a book from the ARC (advanced reader copy) table. I’ll also have the popcorn machine going so shoppers can have a little snack!”

    “We look forward to Indie Bookstore Day as an opportunity to celebrate independence in bookselling and culture—the freedom to step off the worn-out track and find alternatives,” said Jacob Fricke, Operations Director of hello hello books in Rockland. “ To think and feel beyond the mainstream, to see beyond the normative, to imagine different trajectories.” They will have cooperative table games, free ARCs/galleys/advance reader copies, missed connections ads for books, and other special merch and games, along with a guest appearance by Hannah Matthews, author of You or Someone You Love, who will be on hand with signed copies of her book.

    With Indie Bookstore Day held at more than 1,000 independent bookstores across the U.S., here are a dozen bookshops to explore on a road trip this weekend. If you find the perfect book that found you, let us know in the comments what the title is.

    Kay Stephens can be reached at news@penbaypilot.com