The role local bookstores play in Canada

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“It’s the sweetest part, I’m sure for all of the staff here, to put the right book someone’s hands and know it’s going to change their lives,” said previous co-owner of Words Worth Books Chuck Erion during the independent bookstore’s 40th anniversary event for the public on May 11.

As any local from Waterloo will know, Words Worth Books stands as one of the most beloved local bookstores within walking distance of Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo.

As a current publishing certificate student at the Chang School of Continuing Education, I believe that Erion’s words illuminate the importance of local bookstores in the Canadian publishing industry.

In comparison to the United States, Canada’s list of publishing houses is far smaller and harder to break into. According to Publisher’s Global, Canada has 522 publishing houses while the United States has 2,848.

One of these Canadian publishing houses is Wilfrid Laurier University Press, which runs out of the university’s Waterloo campus. The house publishes “scholarly monographs and collections, trade books based on sound scholarship, and textbooks” according to their website.

A search for books published by Wilfrid Laurier University Press on Indigo’s website will bring up only one result – Leadership and Purpose: A History of Wilfrid Laurier University by Andrew Thompson.

On the other hand, searching Wilfrid Laurier University Press on the Words Worth Books website brings up 924 products. This is only one example of the importance of local bookstores in Canada. Without local businesses like Words Worth, smaller publishing houses (such as Wilfrid Laurier University Press) are far less likely to be seen by local readers.

A study conducted by BookNet Canada in 2022 found that browsing is an essential way those who shop at independent bookstores find the titles they purchase. Further, 29 per cent of the 1,000 participants in the study said they choose to shop at independent bookstores due to the “good selection of titles on offer.”

This “good selection of titles on offer” in my estimation is a result of the extensive knowledge that independent bookstores have of their backlist, or the publisher’s list of books that are still in print.

This sentiment is echoed by Mandy Brouse, the current co-owner of Words Worth Books. “We’re very knowledgeable about not only books that are com- ing out today, but books that have come out throughout the years. We have a good knowledge of our backlist,” she said.

Support your independent local bookstores, and you’re supporting the Canadian publishing industry.


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