One of the sad publishing-industry events in Vancouver in 2010 was the shuttering of Duthie Books, one of the last great non-used indie bookstores in town.

I admit I had mixed feelings about its closing. I loved the idea of Duthie’s, but I’d often felt kind of intimidated going in there. And the rhetoric coming from the owner once the closing was announced was of the “you can’t compete against the box stores and Amazon and ebooks” variety, which frustrates me to no end. (For crafters reading this, I’m of the opinion that bookstores and yarn stores are two sides of the same coin as far as business models go, and I get equally frustrated when yarn-store owners who choose not to innovate and experiment cry that the market climate made them fail.)

Then there was a phoenix that rose from the ashes of Duthie’s, and it was announced that several of the folks who worked at the store were going to open a new indie bookstore a couple of blocks away. Sitka Books and Art (far more books than art, and fully mainstream despite what the Papyrus font of their logo may indicate) is a fabulous addition to Vancouver’s book scene, and I hope they feed our collective literary appetites for decades and decades to come.

Greg and I went in to Sitka last week to buy our holiday gifts for family. The first thing I noticed was that the quiet, perhaps-we’re-too-literary-for-you feeling I got from Duthie’s was gone. We were enthusiastically greeted when we walked in, and the store’s staff helped us pick books for the folks we were least sure about.

We left with an armload of books, and Greg pulled a brilliant stealth move and bought me one without me even noticing.

During our gift exchange, we learned that my in-laws went by Sitka the day after we went, and they, too, raved about how much help they received. I mean, ok. Evidence: They got me a copy of Sylvia Olsen’s Working with Wool: A Coast Salish Legacy and the Cowichan Sweater. Perfect gift, and they wouldn’t have even known it existed without the help of a fabulous staff. (I’ve read the first chapter, and I’m really excited about the rest of the book. If you’re a lover of regional, cultural knitting tradition, I already highly recommend it.)

2011 is going to be an important year in the book business. Ebooks have arrived; they’re no longer for early adopters. Box stores are hurting and indies continue to scrape and claw to stay in the black. Here’s my plan: I’m going to continue to buy genre books I’m unlikely to re-read or lend out as ebooks or used books (and if Google brings their e-bookstore to Canada, I’ll do my best to buy ebooks through indies so they get a cut). And I’m going to go to Sitka Books or my other local favourite, Pulp Fiction, for everything else and when I need a good recommendation. There’s simply nothing like that shopping experience, and it’s important to me to support its continued existence.

What about you? Do you have a favourite local bookstore? And if you’re crafty, do you have a favorite local craft or yarn store? I find there are similarly fabulous shopping experiences in yarn stores as bookstores, amiright?

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Amy James

My favorite indie bookstore is the library :).


I felt like you about Duthie’s. I wanted to support them because they were local – and did shop at the one at the corner of Hornby & Robson when I worked downtown years ago – but a lot of the books I read were not available there because it seemed to cater to a more literary crowd. (I have a BA in English and sometimes I don’t want to read anything considered to be ‘literary’!)

I was sorry when Duthie’s shut down and pleased to see Sitka spring up – although having a bookstore that close to my home can be dangerous! Book Warehouse didn’t last long in that location and a friend of mine who was working at Sitka got laid off just before Christmas, so I’m concerned about them.

My favourite independent book store is White Dwarf at 10th and Alma, specialising in science fiction and fantasy for all ages. Their sister store is Dead Write for ‘crime & detective books’. For children, Kids’ Books is always very helpful.

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