If you’re reading this, you are NOT one of the 14% of U.S adults who read below a basic level. Varying facts and figures assert that a large portion of the adults in America are not equipped with the skills to be considered functionally literate with some studies claiming up to 50% of adults score in the lower two levels of literacy.
These numbers in conjunction with the introduction of e-readers and online delivery services like Amazon, wreaked havoc on brick and mortar bookstores. The big box companies such as Borders and Barnes and Noble took out the independent bookstore before succumbing to the trauma of online purchasing.
Ottawa University’s Director of Liberal Arts Studies, Barbara Dinneen believes that the original demise of the bookstore may have been less about literacy (or lack thereof) and more a response to a changing culture.
“I think bookstores were disappearing because of lots of things but mostly because reading and bookstores were not seen as desirable in an economy that values things always over people,” Dinneen said.
Recently, independent bookstores have made a comeback, with the American Booksellers Association reporting a 30% growth since 2009. Indie owners are now armed with knowledge of what they’re up against and the ability to cater to their audience and provide additional merchandise to supplement their book sales.
Mary Rork-Watson, owner of Plot Twist Bookstore the only independent shop in Ankeny, Iowa was unsure if bookstores were still a viable business option until she began working to open her own.
“I discovered as I did my research and spoke to people that there really is a need for bookstores in communities,” Watson said “Independent bookstores are growing, existing bookstores are expanding and new bookstores are opening all the time.”
Despite the steady business Watson is conscious of the literacy statistics and looks forward to offering programs to provide literacy services. Plot Twist currently has children’s story time and contributes to public libraries and schools.