As many book-lovers know by now, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore will close at the end of this month, after 39 years in business. It’s a familiar story by now: competition from e-books, online shopping, and the big stores that can offer deep discounts. Another entry in the long list of independent bookstores that have closed. I can name a few from every city I’ve lived in.
There used to be women’s bookstores in many cities across Canada. Winnipeg had one, called Bold Print. Hamilton had one; so did a dozen other cities. Now, according to Quill & Quire, there’s only one left: the Northern Woman’s Bookstore in Thunder Bay.
Now that these stores are gone, what’s taking their place? It’s possible to buy almost any book online now, even the hard-to-find titles that women’s bookstores specialized in, but aside from Amazon’s sometimes annoying “Customers who bought this also bought…” how do people find the right book in the first place? Are other groups and places filling the role of community resource that TWB and similar stores sought to be?
There was a farewell event in Toronto on October 30, and a satellite event in Winnipeg on the same night. The Winnipeg event, organized by Ariel Gordon, happened at McNally Robinson Booksellers. Twenty-six of us read that evening, and although we were all sorry about the reason for the event, we thoroughly enjoyed the varied richness of poetry and fiction we heard. And were grateful, all of us, to have an independent bookstore that works so hard to support local writers and their books.