Larry Portzline, the founder of the grassroots "Bookstore Tourism" movement (http://www.bookstoretourism.com/), announced today that he will embark on a 10-week cross-country road trip called The "Why Indie Bookstores Matter" Tour to raise consumer awareness of independent bookstores and celebrate the indie spirit.
Portzline plans to visit at least 200 locally owned bookshops in all 50 states. He'll drive across the continental U.S. and fly to Alaska and Hawaii to complete the trip.
At each bookstore, Portzline will interview owners, booksellers and customers and ask: "Why do indie bookstores matter?" He'll post updates, pictures and podcasts on the tour's blog, and at the conclusion of his journey he plans to author a book about the adventure.
"What better way is there to understand the independent spirit of this country than by visiting its independent bookstores?" Portzline asked. "Indie bookshops are a thousand other things besides retail establishments -- they're gathering places for the community, cultural centers, promoters of reading and literacy, storehouses of knowledge, defenders of free speech, you name it."
Portzline noted that many communities around the country are rediscovering the value of local businesses. They're hoping to attract unique "mom and pop" stores, including bookshops, back to their downtowns to counter the "suburban sameness" and "big box ubiquity" that has encroached on the American landscape over the past few decades, he said.
"Numerous studies have shown that revenue from independent business stays in the local economy much longer than revenue from national chain stores," he said. "So part of the reason for this tour is to remind consumers and local governments that they really can choose who they want their hard-earned dollars to support. In fact, book lovers may want to start asking themselves, 'Where does the money go when I buy this book? Is it transferred electronically into a corporate account three states away? Or does it stay here in my hometown?'"
Portzline said he chose "Independence Week" to announce the Why Indie Bookstores Matter Tour. He pointed out that his planned departure date coincides with another observance: April 1, 2008. "April Fool's Day seems appropriate for something a little Quixotic like a cross-country trip to support indie booksellers," he explained.
In the meantime, he'll seek sponsorship to help defray the cost of the trip and ask visitors to his blog to suggest specific bookstores for his itinerary. He's also inviting fans to make a donation and ride along with him for a day or two. "We won't have luxury accommodations, but it'll be a ridiculous amount of fun," he said. The national tour is merely a variation on the group "bookstore road trips" that he and others have led around the U.S. as part of the Bookstore Tourism movement, he noted. "Except instead of a luxury motorcoach, we're taking my minivan. And I get the final say on the music choices."
Organizations and individuals who are interested in co-sponsoring the trip or making a donation can visit the tour website at http://www.whyindiebookstoresmatter.com/ for more information