How many indie bookstores can you visit in one day?

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The front window of Women & Children First - AIMEE LEVITT
  • Aimee Levitt
  • The front window of Women & Children First

That's what Chicago's independent booksellers wants to know. The day is Saturday, Independent Bookstore Day. You have 24 bookstores to choose from in both the city and suburbs.

If you've been keeping track, this is twice as many Indie Bookstore Day participants as last year. This is in part due to Amazon, decidedly not an indie bookstore, whose announcement last August that it planned to open a location on Southport inspired the creation of the Chicago Independent Bookstore Alliance. There have been similar groups in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Saint Louis, but this is the first time booksellers in Chicago have united on such a scale.

Indie Bookstore Day is the first big event they've planned together. "It's a great debut of that camaraderie and what you can expect from us in the future," says Rebecca George, owner of Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park.

Each bookstore has planned special events and giveaways, but since the purpose of an alliance is to make all its members stronger together, the more stores you visit, the greater your reward. If you visit ten stores on Saturday, you get 10 percent off all your purchases at all 24 stores for a year. If you visit 15, the discount goes up to 15 percent.

(And yes, they will be keeping track. You'll also have to make a purchase of at least $25 at the first store you visit. Then you'll get a luggage tag and a carabiner to hold it and the rest of the tags you collect during the day.)

"We're all obviously interested in doing something instead of being lone islands," says George. "Bookstores are a destination. Books are a conduit of travel."

The Indie Bookstore Challenge offers an opportunity to travel all over Chicago, from Northbrook to Beverly and from Naperville to downtown. No one so far has attempted to list all the special events and readings. George could only speak with authority about her own store's offerings, which include giveaways of limited-edition books and prints, a Welcome to Nightvale record pressed on purple vinyl, and samples from three breweries. Twenty other Wicker Park businesses are also planning to offer discounts to anyone who purchases a book at Volumes.

Open Books in Pilsen will be having a big garage sale of discounted books. Bookends and Beginnings in Evanston will have food trucks. Read It and Eat in Lincoln Park will host cooking demonstrations, including one by the Publican's Dana Cree drawing from her new book, Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream. Women & Children First in Andersonville will have another edition of its ongoing discussion program, The Conversation. Full details are on each bookstore's website and on the Facebook page Mychicagobookstore.

Here's a map of all the participating stores so you can start plotting your travels:



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