Cincinnati and the Cult of Print Books

Here’s a fact that took me by surprise: Cincinnati has more bookstores per capita than San Francisco.

And, “we’re tied with Seattle at seventh among America’s Most Literate Cities, according to a 2014 study by Central Connecticut State University,” writes Julie Carpenter in Soapbox Cincinnati. Even more impressive, she notes, is that most of those bookstores are indies.

“The independent bookstore sector of the book industry has grown every year for the past five years,” said Richard Hunt, owner of Roebling Point Books & Coffee in Covington. “I believe this is due to a combination of many things: readers coming back to print and many who never went away, as well as recognition of the bookstore as a ‘third place’ in people’s lives.”

There’s much to love about the Cincy bookstore scene, from their community author events to their support for rare and one-of-a-kind books. Carpenter’s article, btw, would be the great basis for a visitor’s tour of the best of books in town. Each shop has something unique to offer, and adds to the overall culture of literacy in the city.

Cincinnati seems to be a reflection of what we’re seeing nationwide, as U.S. Census Bureau data points to a resurgence in bookstore sales. Meanwhile, e-book sales continue to stagnate, while people are becoming very vocal about their love of print.

Indie bookstores do more than boost literacy and awareness; they help authors too. For authors, having a book distributed to physical retailers boosts income even higher. Being placed on bookstore shelves ratchets up the median income by several thousand dollars, according to Dana Beth Weinberg writing in Digital Book World. And that’s perfect for the biggest fans of print books: the Millennial and younger.

“In fact, among the adults surveyed, the youngest cohort, age 18–29, was most likely to read a print book, with 79% reporting reading a print book in the past year,” Weinberg notes.

All of this is good news for indie bookstores, especially since Millennials are making it clear that they love to live in cities that offer the amenities they seek. It’s a forward-thinking city that can wrap its arms around a traditional media like print books. Maybe it’s time for a visit.