Lilli Carré created a puzzle for Chicago Independent Bookstore Day shoppers.
Lilli Carré created a puzzle for Chicago Independent Bookstore Day shoppers. Credit: Courtesy Chicago Independent Bookstore Day

The independent booksellers of Chicago would like to let you know that their businesses are all alive and well. As a matter of fact, they’ve actually gained customers since their biggest collective competitor, Borders, closed in 2011.

But they want you to see for yourself. And they want you to see as many stores as possible. Even if you’re a regular at, say, the Book Cellar in Lincoln Square, you might find something awesome at Sandmeyer’s Bookstore in Printer’s Row—if only you bothered to go there.

So this Saturday, July 12, nine bookstores across the city, ranging from Women & Children First in Andersonville to the Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books in Hyde Park, will be joining together for Chicago Independent Bookstore Day. Each bookstore will be offering discounts and giveaways and hosting special events and author appearances. (For instance: Paula Haney of Hoosier Mama Pie Company will be giving a pie-making demonstration at Open Books in River North.) Visitors can get a passport stamped at each store, and the first 20 shoppers who make a purchase of $30 will receive the beginnings of a puzzle created by Chicago artist and former bookseller Lilli Carré. They’ll have until August 3 to visit all nine stores and collect the rest of the pieces.

Chicago Independent Bookstore Day was the brainchild of Stefan Moorehead, a manager and buyer at Unabridged Bookstore in Lakeview, who was inspired by a similar event in California. “We talk among ourselves about building stronger bonds,” he says. “It helps all of us. None of us are in direct competition. It really hit home looking at the map and seeing us spread out throughout the city.” (Also participating are City Lit Books in Logan Square and Powell’s in University Village.)

Moorehead also hopes the event will attract readers who usually shop at what he calls “a large Internet behemoth” that, at least for now, doesn’t generate any sales tax in Illinois. “It’s more than buying books,” he says. “You’re supporting the community. It all comes back.”