Today’s Buy Indie Day, a sort of literary equivalent to Record Store Day. The Outfit Collective has a nice post on it, where Kevin Guilfoile queries contributors and readers, resulting in a nice list of sellers (Anderson’s in Naperville is new to me). If you make a purchase, tell Coudal Partners and you could win things.

Update: If you do go out for Buy Indie Day, I cannot recommend Beryl Satter’s Family Properties, the subject of Deanna Isaacs’s column this week, highly enough. I suspect it’ll be the best book I’ll read this year, and it’s easily one of the best books ever written about Chicago. Andrew Patner has a good interview with the author on his WFMT show Critical Thinking. I’m also very geeked about Weller’s War, a lengthy collection of WWII dispatches by Chicago Daily News reporter George Weller, though I haven’t read it. For more ideas, check our Spring Books Special.

Related, I briefly wanted to defend Record Store Day, which touched off a debate in comments, and on various Facebook pages (best one: “when’s rotary phone day?”). Usually the arguments go along the lines of:

1. Records sound better. That’s really in the ear of the listener; my ear is not terribly good, and neither is my equipment. Honestly, I have trouble telling the difference with anything that’s no lossier than a 192kbps mp3.* I’m slightly audiophilic, within my very limited budget, so it does drive me nuts to see people using stock iPod headphones (they’re terrible; a pair of $20 Sony buds are much better), but my financial and auditory limitations are substantial. So, if you like vinyl better, that’s great, but that’s not why I’m here.

2. It’s better to buy local. I guess it doesn’t make the fat cats rich, and no one likes the fat cats. I go back and forth on the moral argument.

3. You can learn a lot from the employees. This is almost certainly true, but with my crippling social anxiety this rarely happens to me. I’m friendly with exactly one record store guy, but one of my friends had to befriend him first. Mostly, when I see him we talk about the Cardinals’ prospects.

Instead, my argument is totally utilitarian, and specifically about three genres: classical, spoken-word, and folk. Record stores are still great places to buy these. There’s a lot of stuff that’s only available on vinyl, and with the stuff that isn’t, it’s usually a lot cheaper. 

I got into classical pretty late, so I have a lot of catching up to do. When Virgin on Michigan was open, I would go there on my lunch break, since it had a very good selection, and spent too much money. Now, I go to Hyde Park Records and crate-dig, and for the price of a CD, I can walk out with 10-15 recordings (vinyl junkies are mostly rock, jazz, and hip-hop fans). $15’s a lot to take a flier on something, but $1-2’s pretty safe, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten into Messaien if I hadn’t been able to get a lot of it for cheap. And, with the exception of Chicago Digital in Oak Park, it’s hard to find a decent used classical CD selection.

I also like eclectic spoken word stuff; I actually wasn’t much of a music listener as a kid, preferring radio, especially early-midcentury comedy. And on my last trip to Reckless, I picked up two Spike Jones radio recordings and Nichols and May Examine Doctors for $5. Most any record store will have Bill Cosby and Bob Newhart for cheap.

Folk is also worth hunting for at record stores, since the real folk explosion occurred during the vinyl years, and petered out quickly afterwards; my most treasured recent find is a Rounder collection of women’s coal-mining songs, featuring “Which Side Are You On” sung by the songwriter. On the same trip, I found a double-LP of Appalachian storytelling featuring Gurney Norman, whom I’d heard of but never heard. And I come across, surprisingly often, old Bob Wills transcriptions.

The counter-argument is portability; certainly, records suck to move. But if you spend a lot of time at a computer, and are patient, ripping vinyl to digital format’s not actually all that difficult.

That was probably more than you wanted to read, but sweeping dismissals of things will make me do that. 

*I had an interesting conversation with our music editor, who is a musician, and who really likes very heavy music, and he points out that with complex, heavy music – think virtuoso metal and stuff like that – you actually lose a lot of detail and it sounds much worse than when you apply the same treatment to, say, Leo Kottke.