Last weekend, Bookbinders Basalt celebrated its second anniversary at its Willits location, offering 15 percent off the whole store to thank the community for welcoming the little bookshop into the midst of the Mid-Valley.
“It attracted quite a few of our local, regular customers and some tourists, which was wonderful,” Lisa Krass, co-manager of the store, says. “It was crowded. At one point it was holiday crowded. It was fantastic.”
Bookbinders opened two years ago when owner, Catherine Maass, noticed a need for a bookstore in the Mid-Valley. Townseller Booksellers closed in downtown Basalt just over 10 years ago and Book Train in Glenwood Springs shut its doors in April after 40 years of business upon losing its lease. That left Explore Booksellers in Aspen as the Roaring Fork Valley’s remaining bookstore.
With this in mind, locals wondered about the rate of survival for the little bookstore, especially in the age of Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Co-managers, Krass and Izzy Stringham, are not worried though.
“In 2018, book selling went up by 6 percent, according to Publisher’s Weekly,” Stringham says. “It’s on an upswing for sure. Every day people come in and say ‘I’m glad there’s a bookstore again.’ They’re really supportive, the community has been incredible.”
“I think with the whole tech thing, people 10 years ago were obsessed with what was going on online—streaming Netflix and having this onslaught of media consumption—and I think that excitement has peaked,” Krass adds.
“Now, people understand they don’t have to watch that show now. They can read their book and watch what they will later because it’s not going anywhere. And we hear it every day. ‘I sit in front of a screen all day. I want to look at a book. I don’t want to look at another screen anymore.’ It’s so much of what we all do these days, so reading is decompression. It kind of went flat for a while, but it’s coming back. Especially since Amazon took over Whole Foods, more people have said they want to support us,” she says.
Beyond the classics
Bookbinders Basalt has taken an active role in bringing a holistic reading experience to the Roaring Fork Valley in its short time.
Stringham has worked with Carbondale Elementary School to help organize a book fair for students to pick up more books. This summer, Bookbinders will have a table at Aspen Summer Words, selling books in between workshops and lectures at the Gant. Most of all, they partner with the Basalt schools to provide students with their reading lists, and have even hosted Basalt Senior Capstone presentations the past two years.
What Krass and Stringham noticed is a change in how the reading lists are organized for students now.
“It used to be all classics, but now I think the schools are reaching more broadly, by going for the usual four or five—Lord of the Flies, Great Gatsby—but then having books that were also published in the last five, even three years. Today’s kids may be more well-read than some of the adults here because it’s required for class as far as diversity goes. Basalt does a good job of splitting it 50/50 with classic and contemporary,” Krass says.
When asked if they thought this curriculum measure could be considered tokenizing, Stringham and Krass point out it’s not so much that as it is representative of who is writing in the world and what their experiences are.
“Teachers are paying attention. I hope that their thought process is this is what the world has to offer and let’s expand your horizons to jump out of your comfort zone,” Krass says.
“Young Adult Fiction has really grown in that specific approach [of using fiction to help develop empathy],” Stringham adds. “I try to read as much as I can to have a good idea of what kids are reading in school.”
Overall, the purpose of the store is to offer what they can as often as they can, working with the mission of helping others to read as much as possible.
“I think now people are less intimidated by reading because it’s more accessible. Publishing has opened up roads for more authors and more readers,” Stringham says. “Yes, you have to wade through some of the crap, but I think it’s better have more to pick from. You don’t have to be studying something profound or have your Ph.D. in literature to read thoughtfully anymore.”
“We’re trying to be more than just a book store. Our logo is ‘Book, Toys, and More’,” Krass says. We’re trying to be sort of a go-all for the community—a community hub. We want to be that provider for people to come in for a book, a birthday card, a present, and really provide an overall service for the community.”