On a recent trip to Bainbridge Island, my family wandered into Eagle Harbor Book Company on Winslow Way. If you haven’t been to that indie bookstore, I highly recommend a Sunday morning excursion. If you’re coming from Seattle you get the pleasure of a lovely ferry ride (particularly great in the summer), a stroll along the charming town of Winslow, perhaps brunch, and the experience of a homey, impeccable book buying experience.
I couldn’t help but notice the qualities Island Books shares with Eagle Harbor, like the welcoming staff counter, the children’s section tucked magically in the back, and the prominent display of shelf talkers highlighting the booksellers’ unique tastes. Whenever I visit another bookstore, I note the aspects I like and ponder how we could do better. I enjoyed the extensive staff pick shelf and vacation-like atmosphere.
The recent hubbub about Obama endorsing Amazon, Jeff Bezos purchasing The Washington Post, and William Lynch’s departure from Barnes & Noble has inspired renewed rumblings about the value of independent booksellers. I’ve read countless soapbox statements about the importance of indies and physical books and I’ve spouted my own self-righteous monologues about the subject on this very blog. I’ll try not to regurgitate anymore of what you’ve already heard, but more than the latest news, my experience shopping at Eagle Harbor Book Company brought the subject back to the forefront of my mind.
As I walked through the children’s section at Eagle Harbor Book Company that day, I carried my then-9-month-old son strapped to my chest. He’s a curious guy, always watching and reaching out for things that catch his interest. I’ve proudly noticed he gravitates towards books. As we browsed, he reached out and pulled Touch and Feel Farm from the shelf. It’s part of a DK series that features tactile pages, perfect for babies to touch and explore textures. I picked up his choice off the floor and went to put it back on the shelf, but he waved his arms out to the side and shouted “dadada” at an ear-piercing decibel. When I brought the book back to him he reached out to pet the soft yellow chick fur on the cover, his eyes filled with amazement.
"Wow, I guess he likes that book," commented a member of the staff, watching him and chuckling. She proceeded to bring over some other titles that offered the touch-and-feel experience. We laughed at him as he eagerly babbled and grabbed at different options.
Don’t let me mislead you into thinking Touch and Feel Farm is the ultimate in baby books, because a week later both my twins were squealing over a different title at the library. Rather than having an eager bookseller applauding their enthusiasm, we received a sharp shush. My kids don’t know the meaning of shush yet, so I had to leave when they didn’t quiet down.
I’m a big advocate of the library, but when it comes to finding new books for the babies, nothing beats an independent bookstore. The kids can’t pull a random title off the shelf at Amazon, and they aren’t old enough to follow library etiquette.