Local independent bookstores hope to draw visitors with new ‘passport’ program

Fonts Books and Gifts in McLean (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

For this year’s Independent Bookstore Day, local bookworms will be encouraged to collect not just new literary titles, but also places to buy them.

More than a dozen shops across Northern Virginia, Maryland and West Virginia have teamed up for a new “Passport” program, giving customers a chance to win prizes if they visit different locations.

“The Passport will introduce book lovers to more of our region’s growing bookstore scene, and offer them a way to celebrate with their favorites,” a press release for the campaign says.

The passports will be issued by the participating stores this Saturday (April 27) on Independent Bookstore Day, which is organized by the American Booksellers Association to celebrate the importance of independently owned book shops to local communities.

Passport holders will then have until May 31 to collect stamps from the participating stores. Four stores will net a book, eight stores a tote bag, and those who visit at least 10 stores can enter to win a grand prize, which will have books, gift cards and other items from each of the 15 shops, according to Fonts Books and Gifts owner Amber Taylor.

Taylor’s McLean store, which opened last year near Chesterbrook Plaza, is one of several Fairfax County businesses involved in the promotional campaign. Bards Alley in Vienna (full disclosure: this reporter’s sister is an employee), Scrawl Books in Reston and Herndon’s A Thousand Stories are also taking part.

“Northern Virginia is home to a robust and growing community of local, independent bookstores. And, our region is full of readers, book lovers and supporters of local businesses,” Taylor said by email. “We hope all of our customers enjoy filling their Bookstore Passports beginning on Saturday as they visit their favorite stores, and some stores that are new to them.”

In addition to the Passport program, each of the stores has its own activities planned for Independent Bookstore Day.

Scrawl Books has lined up several author visits, while Fonts will offer non-alcoholic drink samples, among other activities. Bards Alley will host a “stuffy sleepover” and storytime, and A Thousand Stories has partnered with Arts Herndon and the Friends of Runnymeade Park for a native plant and art sale.

Now in its 11th year, Independent Bookstore Day was started in 2013 by booksellers in California before going national in 2015. According to the American Booksellers Association, over a thousand stores across all 50 states will host events this year.

Passport programs or “bookstore crawls” have become a popular promotional method. The Northern Virginia crawl — which also includes Curious Iguana in Frederick, Maryland, and WordPlay in Wardensville, West Virginia — echoes similar campaigns in D.C., Connecticut and other areas.

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