Last year on Record Store Day, Pete Mulvihill, one of the three owners of Green Apple Books and Records, had a crazy idea. "Why the hell isn't there a Bookstore Day?" he asked in a recent phone interview. Eight years in, Record Store Day is a major event that includes almost 1,000 stores across the country and thousands more across the globe (on every continent except, as far as we know, Antarctica). The goal is to celebrate and promote the unique culture that surrounds record stores; to that end, special albums and other promotional products are made exclusively available that day, and musicians perform in many of the stores.
But why no similar celebration for bookstores? As a board member of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, Mulvihill presented the idea at its next meeting, and shortly after at Book Expo America, the country's largest annual publishing event, where he spread the idea to gauge interest among publishers, bookstores, and authors. With interest aplenty, Mulvihill, the NCIBA, and Mulvihill's wife, the writer and editor Samantha Schoech, produced the first California Bookstore Day.
Though the event won't be national — yet — people from all over the country will be looking on as 93 stores representing 80 of California's ZIP codes celebrate independent bookstore culture. The producers have worked with big publishers and solo authors alike to create 13 exclusive items available only on May 3. These include an expanded convocation speech signed, numbered, and doodled in by George Saunders, a punk rock writer's journal with watercolor portraits by Wendy MacNaughton, a limited bound and illustrated copy of a short story by Neil Gaiman, and recipe cards from Michael Pollan's kitchen – to name a few. In the process, CBD even became a publisher, issuing a book by Lisa Brown featuring her three-panel book reviews, a graffiti stencil featuring a quote from Don DeLillo ("California deserves whatever it gets"), a joke book for kids with a staggering list of contributors, and a giclee print of California literary settings.
Each participating store — and there are 13 in S.F. alone, and more than 13 in the East Bay — will host its own particular brand of daylong party, with cocktail hours, readings, bookmaking, food trucks, and music.
"Part of the reason to do this now I think is that stores can," Mulvihill said. "Five years ago this would have never gotten anywhere because people were just struggling to make payroll, or pay the rent. But indie bookstores have really not just survived but thrived, in the last few years."
California Bookstore Day starts at various times at various locations throughout the Bay Area. Free; to find the store closest to you, and to see all of the unique products, visit cabookstoreday.com.