Book lovers might like to fantasize about the independent bookstore business as a cozy world where nothing much ever changes, but every Christmas seems to bring a new, transient status quo.
In the bygone days of the 2019 Christmas season, when TikTok and a novel coronavirus both had yet to achieve notoriety, “Where the Crawdads Sing” provided a classic example of a mainstream breakout novel peaking at just the right time to become a consensus pick as a great gift idea. That’s a very traditional type of success.
By the 2021 holiday season, a lot had changed. Like other businesses, indie bookstores had to revamp their business models, catering to homebound customers with robust online storefronts, curbside pickup and even home delivery. But the fact that those customers were spending so much more time at home led to something unexpected: Many of them were rediscovering the pleasures of good old ink-on-paper books.
Independent bookstore owners across Alabama told AL.com the same thing in December 2021: Business had surged during …