In a world of Amazon and other super-stores, shopping small has become more and more difficult. Amazon has made it so they are often the best deal on the market, so many people may opt for price over ethics. Even Barnes & Noble, which was once seen as a mega-corporation to many, is now welcomed as supporting the “little guy” purely because it's a brick-and-mortar store. However, for those looking to actually support independent booksellers, there are plenty of small bookstores in Boston for students to check out when they’re in need of a book or a gift for a loved one.
For those on a budget, and also looking to support a local community, check out Frugal Bookstore in Roxbury. With just a short half-hour bus ride, any students of UMass Boston can promote literacy amongst the Roxbury community, as well as get a great deal on brand new books. Frugal Bookstore also has the option to special order books they don’t have in stock, so long as they’re currently in print. While their selection isn’t as expansive as larger bookstores or online sellers, shoppers can know they’re giving their money to a community their friends may live in, rather than a large company.
While the publishing world has been dominated by the voices and stories of White, cisgender and heterosexual men for centuries, that does not mean bookstores have to be as well. All She Wrote Books in Somerville’s goal is to carry books that are only by female, queer and nonbinary authors. The bookstore, which is located in Assembly Row, has titles that span across all genres; ranging from a section amplifying Black writers, to a section dedicated to breaking the stigma around sex work and sex workers, to one amplifying people with disabilities, to much more common sections like Romance, Non-Fiction and Young Adult. This bookstore is an excellent place to find books that may not be amplified or publicized in other bookstores, and students may be able to find their new favorite author.
For those looking to shop for some books, as well as empower teenagers, head to More Than Words. The bookstore, which works to give responsibilities and jobs throughout the online store and retail spaces to young adults who are in foster care, homeless, out of school or court-involved, sells a variety of new and used books, as well as vinyl, gifts and specialized More Than Words apparel with phrases like “Read Black Authors” and “Proud Reader” on a variety of merchandise. More Than Words also accepts donations of gently used books and clothing, for those looking to clean out their closets or bookshelves. The atmosphere of the bookstore is incredibly warm and cozy as well, making it the perfect space to purchase a new read.
Though all small shops have their quirks, few are as recognizable as Jamaica Plain’s Papercuts Bookshop. The bookstore is incredibly recognizable with its bright green exterior and lavender door, and its interior is just as welcoming as the outside. Papercuts sells most traditional genres, such as Young Adult, Historical Fiction and Romance, as well as a variety of gifts and novelties like puzzles, totes, tarot decks and stuffed animals. Papercuts’ physical store is not currently open to the public due to two cars crashing into the building on April 27, however, they can still be supported via their Bookshop page. Their Bookshop page also features a collection of books for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, for those looking for some reading recommendations throughout the month of May (1).
In a fast-paced and hectic world, though, finding time to go to an in-person bookstore can be difficult. Online shopping can be much more convenient to many people, as well as a necessity for those with disabilities that cannot go out. Bookshop.org serves as a way to help independent bookstores—especially local ones—sell books to customers electronically as an alternative to sites like Amazon. While buyers do not have to purchase from a selected local shop, that is an option, including several on this list, and proceeds will still go to independent bookstores. There is a bit of a discount as well—though not as much as stores that can afford to cut prices—so buyers may be able to save a bit of money. Bookshop.org does take a fairly long time to deliver books, so those in a rush may want to opt for in-person options.
Whether student shoppers plan on buying online or in person, shopping from small booksellers can be just as easy as choosing big retailers like Amazon or Barnes & Noble. While these may cost a bit more financially, the community impact, as well as the bit of good karma of shopping locally, can be all the more rewarding. Next time someone needs a book or gift, try a small bookstore before opting for a chain.