A person can count themselves lucky when they have an independent bookstore in their home town. All bookstores, even huge chains are havens of civility, charm and otherworldlyness, but independent bookstores just ooze appreciation for the written word in a way a big chain just can't.
Most independent book stores aren't there to make big money or, looking at my local bookstore, any money at all. They are there because selling books is their vocation in life. The people who work in these gems know almost everything about every book on their shelves. If you need to find a book, they're the experts. If you need to find out how to sell your book they have endless amounts of time and patience with your stupid questions.
Local book stores like to support local talent, and in some cases local lack of talent. They are just committed to helping preserve the written word.
When I'm in the city I seek out any bookstore to recharge my sanity batteries. I try and make visits to the city happen not very often at all. I'm a countryman and it's hills, grass, streams and rocky outcrops that float my boat not traffic jams, hoards of people and hustle and bustle. Even huge chain bookstores exude calm and peace, and they are wonderful places.
But it's the independant book store that is at the heart of book selling, in fact they are the beating hearts of the industry.
My local town is a place called Settle. It's famous for the Settle-Carlisle Railway, stunning geology and more than it's fair share of sheep and characters. One of Settle's characters is the man in the bookstore. I've never discovered his name, he's just the man in the book shop. A quiet, studious man, he is the embodiment of the phrase "Gentleman".
My wife spends hours in this Gentleman's store, looking for children's book's you wouldn't see anywhere else. She stands there chuckling at the funny books, sniggering at the silly rude ones, and spending pounds and pounds supporting this cottage industry.
The next time you see an independant bookstore down a narrow alley, go and investigate, and step into a calmer world.