Whether or not the helpful small-town retail clerk is to you a fond memory or a beautiful fiction, an increasing number of people are mad as hell and determined not to take it any more. At least on paper.
And let’s face it: few industries have been as impacted by the growing trend towards mega-retailers as the book business, with many consumers bemoaning the passing of a favorite independent bookstore. Bemoan they may do but, on a certain level, a lot of people aren’t really sure what to do about it.
Larry Portzline has no such hesitations. Portzline is a college instructor and writer from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and if you’ve ever heard the term “bookstore tourism,” Portzline is probably the reason why.
According to the National Council on Bookstore Tourism — another one of Portzline’s pet projects — he launched the movement in 2003 as “a grassroots effort to support locally owned and operated bookshops, many of which have struggled to compete with large bookstore chains and online retailers.”
The movement now has a blog and a Web site but Portzline figured he still had a lot of miles to travel before he reached his destination and cooked up the “Why Indie Bookstores Matter” book tour, an event he himself will undertake starting next April when he launches his 1999 Dodge Caravan — “the light blue ‘soccer mom mobile’” — at the open road in search of awareness for long-suffering bookstores everywhere.
The Why Indie Bookstores Matter Tour is a 10-week, cross-country road-trip that will include stops at 200 independent bookstores. “If I can get people to see how important indie bookstores are to their communities,” Portzline said on the tour’s blog a few days ago, “not just as retail establishments but as places of culture and learning and belonging, then maybe those same people will start to see how important other independent businesses are in their hometowns. Maybe they’ll remember how great it was to have a locally owned pharmacy, grocery store, hardware store or department store. And maybe they’ll start to see that a community’s economic health doesn’t come from outside but from within.”
Portzline is currently trying to raise money to finance the trip and promises, while the tour is underway, he’ll update the trip blog while on the road, “post pictures, podcasts and even video. And when the trip is over, I plan to write a book about the experience.”