Winnie the Pooh turned 90 on Aug. 21. The little stuffed bear with the sweet disposition has warmed hearts for years as he shared adventures with his friend Christopher Robin.Of course I'm talking about the actual stuffed bear that A.A. Milne purchased from Harrods for his son and then used as inspiration for his popular books, the first of which debuted 86 years ago. The original Pooh is still on display in the New York City Public Library.
In all those years, the books themselves have charmed children around the world. They have been translated into 46 languages and the spin-off merchandise has netted nearly $5 billion dollars.
Ironically, the picture hasn't been quite as rosy for another Milne creation, this one launched by the writer's son Christopher Robin Milne. The same week that Pooh celebrated his birthday, The Harbour Bookshop in Dartmouth announced it was closing after 60 years in business. It was opened in 1951 by Christopher Robin and after his death in 1996 it was purchased by Rowland and Caroline Abram. The only independent bookstore in the English town, The Harbour Bookshop was hit hard by the economy and by chain bookstores, including the local grocery.
Rowland Abram also blames the publishing industry, accusing them of selling books at much lower margins to bigger retail groups.
I am, obviously, a huge consumer of books. I purchase them for gifts, for my own reading, and for local charities. I do have an original Barnes & Noble member card, and I have shopped in Borders (R.I.P.) and Books-A-Million. But I will always, without fail, search out an independent bookstore before I spend my cash. When I travel, I research what local bookstores are available before I even leave.
Independent stores are usually staffed with very knowledgeable and passionate readers, ready to find your next favorite book. The stores also stock unusual or short-run books, hidden gems that bigger stores don't carry.
So the moral of this Pooh story is ― please support your local independent bookstores whenever possible. It should be as important as the local-food movement has been. If you need help finding a store near you, check out the list I've compiled on the right. Or click on the Indie Bound link here. That site has a terrific store locator that will help you find just what you need.