Reading Galore

The Indie Bookselling Darlings of the City

Inside Houston's thriving independent bookstore scene.

By Nick Esquer January 5, 2016 Published in the January 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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Packed house during a live reading series at Murder by the Book.

Yes, the big-box bookstores of yesterday have all died or are struggling. But in the past few years, Houston’s indie booksellers have seen growing profits thanks to their community-centric approach. We asked owners and operators of local indie bookstores to explain why going small-time is big-time today.

Becker's Books

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"People will say, ‘Oh my god, it’s a lot bigger than it looks!’ Or they’ll say, ‘God, I love the way it smells!’ because it smells like your grandma’s house. We got on the Internet with Amazon—we’re one of their sellers—so we’ve seen the evolution of the entire bookselling business.” —Ann Becker, owner

7405 Westview Dr., 713-957-8088

Blue Willow Bookshop

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"Everyone raced to embrace the e-book, and we all said it was going to be a fad. It plateaued, and people still want print books. People still want to go into the store and have discovery and serendipity. People want to talk to somebody.” —Valerie Koehler, owner

14532 Memorial Dr., 281-497-8675

Brazos Bookstore

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"We give people the chance to interact with the publishing community. We have parties that people love, like the Alice in Wonderland costume party. Brazos has been here for 41 years. It exists because of customer loyalty and smart, interesting books.” —Jeremy Ellis, general manager

2421 Bissonnet St., 713-523-0701

Murder by the Book

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"We've found ourselves to be a community. We have customers who treat this place like the bar in Cheers. So they come in, and we greet them by name and offer suggestions on books they would love.” —McKenna Jordan, owner

2342 Bissonnet St., 713-524-8597

River Oaks Bookstore

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"We're more nimble and able to act more quickly for our customers. They appreciate the face time.” —Michael Jones, owner

3270 Westheimer Rd., 713-520-0061

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