The following post was written by Larry Portzline, author of Bookstore Tourism: The Book Addict’s Guide To Planning & Promoting Bookstore Road Trips for Bibliophiles & Other Bookshop Junkies.
My goal when I started the Bookstore Tourism “movement” was to support independent bookstores by promoting them as a group travel destination. And although I haven’t been actively involved with it over the past few years (I’ve been working on other projects and living the fiscally-challenged life of a writer), I still think it has a lot of promise as a group travel niche and marketing tool for the bookselling and travel industries. So I plan to get back into it again as time allows and as the economy continues to recover. In fact, I’ll be leading a “Greenwich Village Bookstore Adventure” for a Pennsylvania college this October.
I first began leading “bookstore road trips” to New York City in 2003. I’d load 50 people on a chartered bus in Harrisburg, PA, and we’d spend the day visiting the 20 or so indie bookshops in and around Greenwich Village. Later, I also led literary jaunts to Washington, DC and the Brandywine Valley. To say that these sold-out excursions were popular would be putting it lightly. Everyone spent so much money and carried home so many books, it boggles the mind.
At first the Bookstore Tourism idea was merely for fun, but it gradually turned into a mission when I saw how many indie booksellers around the country were struggling to compete with large bookstore chains, online retailers, and more recently, the rise of the e-book. I wanted to remind readers everywhere how important it is to support their local indies if they don’t want them fading into oblivion. These bus trips seemed like a great way to do that, so I started encouraging other folks to plan bookstore tours of their own. I promoted the concept with a website, a blog, podcasts, and even a how-to book called “Bookstore Tourism: The Book Addict’s Guide to Planning & Promoting Bookstore Road Trips for Bibliophiles & Other Bookshop Junkies.”
Bookstore Tourism eventually grew into a grassroots effort in pockets around the U.S. It was never huge, but there was a nice ripple of interest and support. A lot of folks recognized the concept’s potential as a group travel niche and marketing tool, especially the American Booksellers Assocation, various regional booksellers associations and a few other groups that considered ways to collaborate and capitalize on the trend. In particular, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association offered several bookstore tours in and around Los Angeles and San Diego.
Some folks continue to do literary road trips here and there, but the Recession has certainly taken a toll. I think Bookstore Tourism will rise again, though. It offers nothing but benefits: to the bookselling and travel industries, to other local retailers, to sponsoring organizations, to campaigns for reading and literacy, and on and on.
Like I told a reporter once: “If they can load people onto a bus and take them to outlet malls for the day, why can’t they do the same with indie bookstores?”