Photograph Courtesy of John K. King Used and Rare Books
Despite the emergence of e-books, good old-fashioned physical copies are still a go-to for book worms. And while big box stores and Amazon dominate the market, there are a surprising number of great independent bookstores scattered around metro Detroit.
Build up your summer reading list with these local favorites.
After closing due to fire damage from a neighboring building, Book Nook reopened last November after months of refurbishment and getting the out-of-date building up to code.
Owner Janet Berns says the draw of bookstores is the one-on-one experience. “It’s a human connection,” she explains. “It’s visceral actually touching a book.”
This year marks the store’s 50th anniversary.
Suggested Book: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (2009)
42 S. Monroe St., Monroe; 734-241-2665; facebook.com/BookNook42
Owners Peter and Megan Blackshear opened Bookbound in 2013. The owners say that in recent years they’ve seen the e-book market plateau, with the main competition now being online sales of print copies.
Even with the competition of online retailers, Peter Blackshear recalls one customer who will preview books on Audible or Kindle, then purchase the printed version at Bookbound.
“Quite a few of our customers have made the deliberate choice to shop with us,” he says. “It’s not necessarily because we’re the most convenient or the competitive pricing, they just want to support a local business.”
Suggested Book: Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild (2016)
1729 Plymouth Rd., Ann Arbor; 734-369-4345; bookboundbookstore.com
Black Stone Bookstore and Cultural Center
Black Stone Bookstore, which opened in 2013, specializes in African American literature, but does carry some literature from various ethnicities and cultures.
Owner Carlos Franklin says that the availability of e-readers and digital formats has not affected the physical book business. “There’s something about true book readers that love to hold a book, turn the pages, and I don’t think they ever went anywhere.”
Suggested Book: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander (2010)
214 W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti; 734-961-7376; facebook.com/BlackStoneBookstore
Jill Zimmerman, manager of Literati Bookstore, has found that the touch, smell, and community surrounding independent bookstores has kept the business popular.
Opened in March 2013, Literati hosts authors for readings and works with schools to get authors into classrooms. “We’re really a community resource and not just a retail space,” Zimmerman says.
Suggested Book: Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala (2018)
124 E. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-585-5567; literatibookstore.com
John K. King Used and Rare Books (Detroit)
A Detroit institution, John K. King Used and Rare Books, opened in 1983, houses four floors of books. The store features rows upon rows of shelves packed so tight that books are even piled on the floors.
Owner John K. King says the bookstore saw a 10 percent increase in sales last year. The key? Staying true to the original business. “We just stayed with the old formula that’s been around for hundreds of years,” King says.
Suggested Book: Chances are, you’ll never find what he suggests because he only has one or two copies in store.
901 W. Lafayette, Detroit; 313-961-0622; kingbooksdetroit.com
Classic Book Shop
Opened in 1988, Classic Book Shop offers a varied selection of reads from rare literary finds to well-loved sci-fi. This Royal Oak staple embraces all genres. Stop in for a reasonably priced paperback or sell old books to make room on your shelves for more.
32336 Woodward Ave., Royal Oak; 248-549-0220; classicbookshop.dawntreaderbooks.com
The Book Beat
Cary Loren and Colleen Kammer, the husband/wife team behind Oak Park’s The Book Beat, are celebratng 35 years in the independent bookstore industry. Hosting authors and serving the community with books for decades, this independent bookstore has seen a rise in consumers veering back to hard copies.
Kammer clarifies that even though the trend is cross-generational, it is still a niche part of society. “There are a core people who know the value of culture, of books, and the importance of them for themselves, their lives and community,” she explains.
Suggested Books: Hello Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (2001) and The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact of Slavery by Rochelle Riley (2018)
26010 Greenfield, Oak Park; 248-968-1190; thebookbeat.com
Owner Janet Webster Jones, a member of American Booksellers Association, says she has seen the independent bookstore industry grow citing many new members to the ABA in 2017.
Currently located on Cass Ave., Source Booksellers opened in 2013.The shop offerings include a breadth of subjects from health and wellness to children’s books. “Our demographic is 6 to 96,” says Jones. The store also carries incense and raw snacks.
Suggested Books: Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (2017), The Origin of Others by Tori Morrison (2017)
4240 Cass Ave., Detroit; 313-832-1155; sourcebooksellers.com
Located in Detroit’s historic Grandmont Rosedale neighborhood, Pages was opened by Susan Murphy in 2015. The cozy shop’s selection is primarily fiction, with books by Detroit authors, as well as gifts that encourage reading and writing. Stop in to visit the shop cat, Pip.
19560 Grand River Ave., Detroit; 313 473-7342; pagesbookshop.com