ORLANDO, Fla. – Print is not dead, despite society’s best efforts.
Around the world, independent booksellers shelve stories in little shops still.
According to the American Booksellers Association, the group has 2,023 members running 2,561 locations across the country. Eighty-five new bookstores have opened since January, and 207 members are looking at opening new stores.
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These are just independent bookstores that are members of the ABA.
According to the US Census, in 2020 there were 5,733 total bookstores across the country.
Though there may not be as many bookstores as there were 20 years ago, neither digital tech nor Amazon have been able to vanquish the scrappy bookseller. Book lovers continue to haunt the stacks looking for a new hardcover or paperback to love.
“People do read,” said Lauren Zimmerman with Writer’s Block Bookstore in Winter Park. “People love to shop in bookstores and get help from the staff to find out what books to read or find out about new authors.”
Central Florida has a few independent bookstores of its own. Here are some of them.
Writer’s Block Bookstore – Winter Park and Winter Garden
What started in a little house off of Park Avenue in Winter Park is now a full bookstore with two locations in Orange County. Writer’s Block started in 2014, moved into a bigger location a few years later, then opened a second location in downtown Winter Garden in November 2020.
Writer’s Block sells games, puzzles and gifts on top of new books. The store in Winter Park has a coffee bar. But Writer’s Block’s Lauren Zimmerman said books are very much the star.
“It is a special place that is welcoming to all demographics and can be a place where no matter what your beliefs or preferences are, you can find something and be able to talk about the books in a fun environment with so many different people,” Zimmerman said. “It is a place where learning begins and continues through the ages.”
Writer’s Block also hosts author signings, book clubs, story time and other events.
“Before COVID, we averaged over 50 events a year,” Zimmerman said. “We are starting to have events again which is exciting. National bestselling authors come to Central Florida for the release of their books and we host at the store or work with our many partners to find the perfect venue for the event.”
Barrel of Books and Games – Mount Dora
Now celebrating 11 years in business, Barrel of Books and Games in downtown Mount Dora is now expanding into a new location — it’s third over the years, and each one gets bigger.
A new and used bookstore, Barrel of Books and Games also sells games, puzzles, comic books and Funko Pops.
“Books have power — I have heard people in my store laughing, crying, reminiscing, storytelling and I’ve even been the spot for two marriage proposals now,” said store owner Crissy Stiles, who also happens to be the mayor of Mount Dora .
Stiles hopes to have more in-store camaraderie in her new store. Currently, Barrel of Books and Games hosts two monthly book clubs, along with book signings. The new space will place host to special events ranging from game nights to adult coloring book nights. Stiles is even thinking about hosting events for singles.
“When I first opened it was just after e-readers came out and bookstores were suffering,” Stiles said. “The excitement for e-readers has worn off and many people have come back to real books. Bookstores will never die. There is something very safe and satisfying about being in an independent bookstore.”
Hello Again Books – Cocoa Village
Imagine opening a business right before a mass shutdown because of a pandemic. Hello Again Books, a new and used bookstore in Cocoa Village that opened March 1, 2020.
As the world shut down, social media and parking lot pickups kept the store going, along with some e-commerce.
Owners MerryBeth and Amy said their store is now thriving, and they say their business is largely in-store, with books and literary gift items like notebooks and cards.
“Since Covid-19 when we opened, maybe reading was necessary to stay sane in a confusing and scary world. Now, with banned books becoming a topic of discussion again, we see more and more book lovers coming in, happy to see these books on our shelves,” MerryBeth said.
They also host all kinds of events, ranging from book clubs and knitting groups to an LGBTQ+ game night and pop-up crafter shops.
“We hope that we may serve as an inclusive and safe space for those who seek one,” MerryBeth said. “We believe that by embracing the creativity of a truly diverse community, we can contribute to making our corner of the world a more welcoming and friendly place.”
Here are a few more bookstores in Central Florida to check out.
A family-run bookstore in a house in Clermont’s historic downtown, Sunshine Book Co. features new books and lifter gifts, along with events like book clubs.
A huge bookstore in Fern Park off State Road 436 featuring new and used books, videos and music, along with a clearance center. Bright Light Books has been around since 1995 and has hundreds of thousands of items for sale.
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