Chicagoland Independent Bookstore Alliance Unveiled

Spurred on in part by Amazon's plan to open its third bricks-and-mortar bookstore next spring in Chicago, Ill., 23 independent bookstores in the Chicago area have banded together to create ChIBA, the Chicagoland Independent Bookstore Alliance.

ChIBA's mission is to promote the ways "independent bookstores create, serve and celebrate local and neighborhood communities," and according to the ChIBA manifesto, member booksellers "vow to move forward in a true spirit of collaboration between ChIBA member stores, and in our unifying desire to foster connection between the bookstores, authors and readers of Chicagoland."

ChIBA has created a Facebook page called MyChicagoIndie, through which any ChIBA member can promote and discuss events at their own and others' stores, as well as with the hashtag #mychicagoindie, which booksellers, authors or readers can use to show support for the indie bookstore community on social media. ChIBA has already hosted an informal meeting to discuss ways authors can actively support indies, which include bringing writing and literature students to literary events and partnering with a specific indie bookstore as the main source for signed copies.

The alliance is also working to establish a series of awards recognizing "achievements in the Chicago literary community that are not strictly writing-related." The first award will be presented on December 8 at the Chicago Review of Books award ceremony and will honor an author-activist who has "actively promoted indie bookstores this year." And in addition to several as-yet-unannounced initiatives, ChIBA will work to educate book buyers about the negative effects of shopping online with Amazon.

Nina Barrett, the owner of Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Ill., described ChIBA's efforts as an extremely collaborative process, with various Chicago booksellers taking the lead on different tasks. Lynn Mooney and Sarah Hollenbeck of Women & Children First, for example, are monitoring developments with Amazon and any new or existing studies that detail the negative effects of their business practices. Volumes Bookcafe's Rebecca George organized the MyChicago Indie Facebook page. RoscoeBooks owner Erika VanDam wrote the group's manifesto. And Barrett herself has been focusing on getting local authors involved.

Finally, ChIBA reminds shoppers: "This holiday season, you can 'vote' with your dollars for the kinds of stores, neighborhoods, and cities you want your children to have. When you shop at Chicagoland indies, you pay with dollars, not with data. When you shop Chicagoland indies, you build community, not an empire." --Alex Mutter

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