LAKELAND — To celebrate National Independent Bookstore Day, six locally owned bookstores in Lakeland will be offering discounts Monday through Friday culminating in the official holiday April 30.
The six bookstores — Bookends Used Books, Crash Bookshop, Inklings Book Shoppe, Little Bus Books, Pressed and The Unbound Bookery — are teaming up to offer different discounts Monday through Friday. Customers can scan a QR code at each store, and each scan will earn one entry into a raffle. At the end of the week, one winner will receive a basket filled with books and book-themed goodies from each of the participating bookstores.
Although the six stores are technically in competition, they each offer something unique in the market, said Christina Needham, owner of the combination coffee shop and bookstore Pressed in downtown Lakeland.
“The booksellers here in Lakeland, we’re all pretty close,” Needham said. “We’ve all been friends. We’ve all talked.”
The different bookstore owners first started discussing the idea of a “book crawl” in February, Needham said. They plan to make it an annual event.
The book crawl will run Monday through Friday, each day offering a different featured bookstore to visit with an associated discount. Here’s the plan:
- Monday: Get 40% off your purchase — excluding classics — at Bookends Used Books, 5100 U.S. 98 N. Hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Tuesday: Mention the book crawl and get 20% off your purchase — excluding featured books by independent authors — at Inklings Book Shoppe, 2120 S. Combee Rd. The shop is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and will host a few independent authors, who will be signing copies of their books.
- Wednesday: Get a free drink with the purchase of a new book at Pressed, 213 E. Bay St., between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
- Thursday: Get a free book with a purchase through Crash Bookshop, which will be popping up at 3125 U.S. 98 S. between the hours of 5 and 9 p.m.
- Friday: Start at Unbound Bookery, 1026 Florida Ave. S., to get 20% off all books between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. And then hop over to the Lake Mirror Promenade to shop Little Bus Books from 3 to 6 p.m., where half of the proceeds will go to support the Pace Center for Girls library.
The savings don’t end Friday. On Saturday, the booksellers intend to continue the celebration:
- Bookends Used books will offer 60% off all books, except classics, to anyone who mentions the book crawl or Independent Bookstore Day.
- Little Bus Books will be back on the promenade from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with half of the proceeds still benefitting the Pace Center for Girls.
- Pressed will have “lots of independent bookstore merchandise,” some of which will be free, as well as new book releases for kids and adults.
- All books will be 20% off at The Unbound Bookery.
Supporting local bookstores
During the past few years, Lakeland’s independent bookstore scene has more than doubled.
Bookends Used Books and Inklings Book Shoppe are the two oldest shops in Lakeland. Bookends claims to offer “many rare and hard to find books” and has been in business for more than 20 years. Inklings, previously known as Book Bazaar, opened in 1979 and offers more than 100,000 new and gently used books in addition to comics, puzzles, board games and vinyl records. Both stores allow customers to trade in their used books for store credit.
In 2019, the Unbound Bookery opened inside Bungalow Boutique and Gifts. That bookstore sells “antique, rare, vintage and collectable books” that “you can’t find anywhere else.”
Unbound was followed quickly by Pressed, Crash and Little Bus Books. While Pressed is a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore, Crash and Little Bus sell books at “pop ups.” Little Bus is a mobile bookstore and Crash appears once a month at Somos Church in addition to selling books online.
Lisa Kirk is one of three employees at Inklings, where she’s worked for the past 13 years. Despite the recent explosion in the industry, Kirk thinks Lakeland could use more bookstores.
“There’s less and less of ’em,” Kirk said. “People are reading more but the stores aren’t there.”
The bookstores that do exist are determined to work together, Needham said. In future iterations of the book crawl, she’d like to see more opportunities to give back to the community as well as a larger emphases on literacy awareness beyond the individual participating bookstores.
“We all have such a passion for what we’re doing and everyone has a unique take on it. So we collaborate often, even just through supporting each other, meeting, talking about our business; we’re very open with each other and we believe that by collaborating we help each other grow,” Needham said. “In other words, we all support each other. We all have fun. And we just, we are huge collaborators.”
Kirk and Needham agree: Independent bookstores can offer the customer an experience they won’t get at a corporate bookstore or ordering through Amazon.
“We know our customers by face, by name. We know how their families are doing,” Kirk said. “If we go out of business, all you’re going to have to deal with is the big book companies, and they’re going to be ridiculous prices.”
Needham knows it can be a challenge for independent booksellers to compete with the bigger players. But she thinks locals should care about Independent Bookstore Day if they care about supporting Lakeland.
“The thing with independent bookstores is it is a representation of your community,” Needham said. “All of our decisions, all of our events, it’s pouring right back into where we live.”
Maya Lora can be reached with tips or questions at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mayaklora.