When our family moved from the big city to a small town we made sacrifices, but we were willing to make those sacrifices in exchange for a better life, a safer life and an emotionally healthier lifestyle.
One of the sacrifices we made was money. My husband left his six figure job of 20 years to work at a small local community hospital with only 20 beds for a third of what he was making. I left full time employment to earn drips of money here and there freelancing.
We reduced our expenses and cut out luxuries, and here’s the thing about money, even if you make more money it’s almost universal to spend more money. There’s never enough money, no matter what. It’s a constant societal stressor. It’s best to be frugal in everything we do and on everything we spend.
When we lived in Phoenix, Changing Hands, an independent bookstore was one of my most cherished space. It was always crowded. They were always hosting events. I was able to touch all the books or sit and read for as long as I wanted. I lived two blocks away and could be home in minutes.
They sold both new and used, did buy backs, had staff picks and author signings. They had this cool stamp card thing- when you purchase ten books you get ten bucks off your next book, promoting more sales and for a literature indulgent girl like me it worked.
One of the things I set out to do when we moved to Iowa was to find a locally independent owned bookstore. Prairie Lights was the first I discovered.
Prairie Lights, is an amazing space crammed full with books and it’s two stories tall. They host events, sell signed copies and there’s a cafe to hang out on the top floor with a large lounge area.
Iowa City is a huge writing community and Prairie Lights caters to it by carrying stacks of books written by local writers. It was the closest to Changing Hands I’ve found in Iowa.
With the exception that it’s way too expensive. Certainly more than I can afford.
It makes me sad because I love this bookstore and I would much rather invest locally, but I can’t because my need is great and my pockets aren’t that deep. Prairie Lights only sells new copies at full major publishing company costs.
I do feel torn. I want publishing companies, authors and Mom & Pop shops to be able to sustain, but at the same time I need to stick to a budget within my means.
The first time I was in the store I compared prices to Thriftbooks. These are the books I desperately wanted to go home with, but couldn’t. Although I did check my local library and they had a few on this list, my ultimate goal is to grow my home library.
A Field Guide for Immersion Writing
A Field Guide for Immersion Writing has 91 ratings and 13 reviews. Rachel said: I received this book as a graduation…
$15.17 on Thriftbooks, $35.99 at Prairie Lights Bookstore.
The Art of Memoir
The Art of Memoir has 3,787 ratings and 625 reviews. Rebecca said: (4.5) I haven't read Mary Karr's memoirs, but I…
$4.54 on Thriftbooks, $24.99 at Prairie Lights Bookstore.
All the Help You Need
All the Help You Need has 10 ratings and 3 reviews. Andrew said: A fun and gritty, frolicking hometown tale with a bit…
$12.46 on Thriftbooks, $25.99 at Prairie Lights Bookstore.
Everything You Want Me to Be
Everything You Want Me to Be has 12,996 ratings and 1,909 reviews. Chelsea said: This will be a tricky review; I refuse…
$2.78 on Thriftbooks, $19.99 at Prairie Lights Bookstore.
The Travel Book
The Travel Book has 74 ratings and 9 reviews. Sue said: This is a wonderful book on all the countries. It gives a great…
$3.79 on Thriftbooks, $70 at Prairie Lights Bookstore.
The New York Times Book of the Dead
The New York Times Book of the Dead has 38 ratings and 6 reviews. Erin said: Obituaries provide a fascinating look at a…
$22.77 on Thriftbooks, $65.99 at Prairie Lights Bookstore.
If I do the math, the total cost of these books online from Thriftbooks is $61.51. Total cost at Prairie Lights Bookstore $242.95. That’s a difference of $181.44, roughly two weeks of groceries for our family.
I added them to my wish list but haven’t purchased them yet. I think it’s because the part of me that wants to support local independent businesses would rather go without than purchase elsewhere. I feel loyal to the local Mom& Pop shops. I still continue to attend events there but their price list is too costly for this girl.
The Haunted Bookshop in Iowa City was recommended to me during my search. I drove into the city the following weekend. It was love at first sight. The Haunted Bookshop sells only secondhand books which makes their collection out of this world and super cheap. I walked out with 11 books for a total of $56.
Not to mention, the atmosphere kicks ass.
I’ve done an immense amount of online research for independent bookstores I can order from via the internet that stand out above typical every day seller bookstores. The type that put even libraries to shame.
Through research I’ve found Printed Matter which is super independent as in, all local writers. Bigwords claim they focus primarily on textbooks but they have yet to not have a book or novel I did a search for. John K. King Rare and Used Books, Taylor Books offer both print and eBook formats.
There’s Elliot Bay Book Company who offer a unique collection in all genres. Westsider Books and Records sells online and does buy, sell, trade if you’re local in NYC. Iliad Bookshop focuses specifically on literature and arts. Chamblin Bookmine made the indie bookstores top 50. Relay Bookhouse sells out of print and rare books but only has a website for mobile devices, and McNally Jackson and Half Price Books.
One thing I didn’t find was an online book share, so I created one. This allows for saving money, having an open discussion and to bring all around happiness to bibliophiles.
The Book Share is a closed Facebook group where members can mail books to one another within the U.S. (The U.S. Postal Service Media Mail rate is cheap), post links of stories, essays, articles and journals for members to read and have an open discussion and for independent authors to promote or share their books.