With Bailey Coy Books in Capitol Hill closing its doors, and Elliott Bay moving to more literary grounds, it seemed a good time to check in on Island Books. Mercer Island doesn’t have a lot of top-tier shopping, but I’ve always thought that Island Books is one of the best independent bookstores around.
I spoke with Roger Page, who owns the store with his wife. He said Island Books has been around for 36 years. He describes it as “a relationship-driven business: most of the people who come here have face-to-face conversations with the people across the counter.”
Roger Page, purveyor of books to Mercer Islanders.
The staff knows its books, and gets to know the people who come in. Some played in the children’s area years ago and are bringing their children now.
About the independent bookstore business, Roger said, “Part of it is the story of retail today.” And it’s hard for any independent bookstore to make it. He can’t be sure any shop will be around in three years, including Island Books. But he’s positive enough to sign up for a new lease. And when I was there last week, the store was busy and people were buying.
Why Island Books is a Great Bookstore
First, you can ask the staff about a book and have a real conversation about it. I’ve changed which book I was going to buy based on those conversations.
Another sign of a great store is that the featured books are well selected and interesting, making for a great browsing experience. You should come out of a bookstore wanting to read new books that you didn’t know about before.
Good new books that make my wallet smaller.
It caters to its community, with a huge childrens’ section:
A children’s section that could be its own bookstore.
and a great regional history section:
Why do I feel all gooey inside when I see so many local history books?
Island Books has occasional events which are listed on their Facebook page. Roger says the website and Facebook are the best places to keep up on events and the book club. For kids, “We used to have story time every Saturday,” but the Island’s kids were overscheduled by the time they were old enough for it. Now they do it at certain times of the year.
If you think there’s a place for an independent bookstore in our community, then buy local and read more for the holidays.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have no relationship with Island Books (except as a customer) and am never paid for any content. The sum total I’ve made from this blog continues to be zero, which is how I like it. But I love books and I love this store.