LAKELAND — To celebrate National Independent Bookstore Day, six local Lakeland bookstores will be offering discounts Monday through Friday, culminating with the April 30 holiday.
The six bookstores – Bookends Used Books, Crash Bookshop, Inklings Book Shoppe, Little Bus Books, Pressed and The Unbound Bookery – are teaming up to offer different discounts Monday through Friday. Customers can scan a QR code at each store, and each scan will win entry into a raffle. At the end of the week, one winner will receive a basket filled with books and book-themed goodies from each of the participating bookstores.
Although the six stores are technically in competition, they each offer something unique to the market, said Christina Needham, owner of Pressed cafe and bookstore in downtown Lakeland.
“Booksellers here in Lakeland, we’re all pretty close,” Needham said. “We’ve all been friends. We’ve all talked.”
The various bookstore owners began discussing the idea of a “book crawl” in February, Needham said. They plan to make it an annual event.
The Book Tour will run Monday through Friday, with each day offering a different bookstore to visit with an associated discount. Here is the schedule:
- Monday: Get 40% off your purchase – excluding classics – at Bookends Used Books, 5100 US 98 N. Hours of operation are 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
- Tuesday: Mention Book Tour and get 20% off your purchase – excluding featured books by independent authors – at Inklings Book Shoppe, 2120 S. Combee Rd. The shop is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. will welcome a few independent authors, who will sign copies of their books.
- Wednesday: Get a free drink with the purchase of a new book at Pressed, 213 E. Bay St., between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
- Thursday: Get a free book with a purchase through Crash Bookshop, which will appear at 3125 US 98 S. between 5 and 9 p.m.
- Friday: Start at Unbound Bookery, 1026 Florida Ave. S., to get 20% off all books between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Then, hop on the Mirror Lake boardwalk to shop Little Bus Books from 3-6 p.m., where half of the proceeds will go to the Pace Center for Girls library.
The savings don’t end on Friday. On Saturday, booksellers intend to continue the party:
- Bookends Used Books will be offering 60% off all books except classics to anyone who mentions the book tour or Independent Bookstore Day.
- Little Bus Books will be back on the boardwalk from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with half of the proceeds still going to the Pace Center for Girls.
- Pressed will feature “lots of independent bookstore products,” some of which will be free, as well as new book releases for children and adults.
- All books will be 20% off at The Unbound Bookery.
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Support local bookstores
In recent years, Lakeland’s independent bookstore scene has more than doubled.
Bookends Used Books and Inklings Book Shoppe are the two oldest shops in Lakeland. Bookends claims to offer “many rare and hard-to-find books” and has been in business for over 20 years. Inklings, formerly known as Book Bazaar, opened in 1979 and offers over 100,000 new and gently used books in addition to comics, puzzles, board games and vinyl records. Both stores allow customers to trade in their used books for store credit.
In 2019, Unbound Bookstore opened inside Bungalow Boutique and Gifts. This bookstore sells “old, rare, vintage, and collectible books” that “you won’t find anywhere else.”
Unbound was quickly followed by Pressed, Crash and Little Bus Books. While Pressed is a traditional brick-and-mortar bookstore, Crash and Little Bus sell books in “pop-ups.” Little Bus is a mobile bookstore and Crash appears once a month at the church in Somos in addition to selling books online.
Lisa Kirk is one of three employees at Inklings, where she has worked for 13 years. Despite the industry’s recent explosion, Kirk thinks Lakeland could use more bookstores.
“There are fewer and fewer of them,” Kirk said. “People are reading more but the stores aren’t there.”
The bookstores that exist are committed to working together, Needham said. In future iterations of the book tour, she would like to see more opportunities to give back to the community as well as a greater focus on literacy awareness beyond individual participating bookstores.
“We all have such a passion for what we do and everyone has a unique vision. So we collaborate often, if only by supporting each other, meeting each other, talking about our business; we are very open to each other with others and we believe that by collaborating, we help each other grow,” Needham said. “In other words, we all support each other. We are all having fun. And we’re just, we’re huge collaborators.”
Kirk and Needham agree: Independent bookstores can give the customer an experience they won’t get at a corporate bookstore or ordering through Amazon.
“We know our clients by face, by name. We know how their families are doing,” Kirk said. “If we go bankrupt, all you have to do is the big book companies, and their prices will be ridiculous.”
Needham knows it can be difficult for independent booksellers to compete with the bigger players. But she thinks locals should care about Independent Bookstore Day if they care about supporting Lakeland.
“The thing about independent bookstores is that it’s a representation of your community,” Needham said. “All of our decisions, all of our events, it reverberates where we live.”
Maya Lora can be contacted with advice or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @mayaklora.