LOGAN SQUARE — Independent bookstores started falling on hard times years ago when big box stores, behemoth online retailers and electronic books threatened to put them all out of business.
But the doom and gloom couldn’t keep Teresa Kirschbraun from her dream of opening a book store in Logan Square, the neighborhood she's called home for 25 years.
City Lit Books celebrated its grand opening the weekend of Oct. 5-7, and Kirschbraun is optimistic.
She cited a statistic from the Association of American Publishers and Book Industry Study Group, noting that though 15 percent of all books purchased today are e-books, 85 percent still are of the old-fashioned variety, printed pages and all.
Her bookstore offers a lot of those, plus cozy chairs in which to look at them, a well-stocked children's book room and even some creations by Logan Square artists.
"People are looking for community places to go to," Kirschbraun said. "We talk about books, what to read — you're not going to get that anywhere else."
And while some in the media were sounding the death knell of independent bookstores in recent years, the number of small bookstores was quietly creeping up.
City Lit Books is among the 75 to 100 independent bookstores that have opened across the country in the last year, said bookstore consultant Mark Kaufman.
He and his wife, Donna Paz Kaufman, run Paz and Associates, a Florida consulting group that helps aspiring booksellers open shop.
The American Booksellers Association also reports "modest growth" in the number of new members over the past three years. The 2011 holiday season saw a double-digit increase in sales at independent bookstores over 2010, according to the ABA's website.
To be sure, the 2011 closing of the giant bookstore chain Borders likely had a lot to do with the uptick in sales at independently owned bookstores, but Kaufman believes more people are rediscovering all that independent bookstores offer.
"The way most people discover a good book to read is in a bookstore," Kaufman said.
He concedes there are some "rude and ungracious" people who might walk into an independent bookstore, browse through the stacks and talk to the staff, only to pull out a smart phone and order the book on Amazon. Still, he thinks people are coming to understand what they're missing.
"At a bookstore people can physically browse, hold the book and look at it," he said. "Those are things you just can't do with an online bookseller."