2006 was the second year in a row that several dozen new independent bookstores opened nationwide, reports  bookweb.org. Of the 97, 5 are in Illinois, including Under the Sycamore Tree (no Web presence) in the Prairie Crossing subdivision of the Chicago suburb of Grayslake. Even though an even larger number of independents closed last year than opened, Avin Mark Domnitz, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, was moved to say, “Independent bookselling is very much alive and well in the 21st century. Happily, the reports of the decline of independents have, again, been exaggerated.”

The free newsletter Hometown Advantage has more encouraging news: since 2002, there’s been a net increase in independently owned pharmacies.

Significant, or a blip? Are Americans’ tastes changing? Are yours?