I've always said that the goal of Bookstore Tourism is to support independent bookstores by promoting them as a group travel destination.  And although I haven't been actively involved with it over the past few years  Bookstore Tourism logo(I've been working on other projects and living the fiscally-challenged life of a writer), I still think it has a lot of promise as a group travel niche and marketing tool for the bookselling and travel industries.  So I plan to get back into it again as time allows and as the economy continues to recover.

I first began leading "bookstore road trips" to New York City in 2003.  I'd load 50 people on a chartered bus in Harrisburg, PA, and we'd spend the day visiting the 20 or so indie bookshops in and around Greenwich Village.  Later, I also led literary jaunts to Washington, DC and the Brandywine Valley.  To say that these sold-out excursions were popular would be putting it lightly.  Everyone spent so much money and carried home so many books, it boggles the mind.

Larry standing at front of bus doing presentation

At first the Bookstore Tourism idea was merely for fun, but it gradually turned into a mission when I saw how many indie booksellers around the country were struggling to compete with large bookstore chains, online retailers, and more recently, the rise of the e-book.  I wanted to remind readers everywhere how important it is to support their local indies if they don't want them fading into oblivion.  Customers at Twelfth Street BooksThese bus trips seemed like a great way to do that, so I started encouraging other folks to plan bookstore tours of their own. I promoted the concept with a website, a blog, podcasts, and even a how-to book called Bookstore Tourism: The Book Addict's Guide to Planning & Promoting Bookstore Road Trips for Bibliophiles & Other Bookshop Junkies.  (You can read a free PDF file of the book here.)

Bookstore Tourism eventually grew into a grassroots effort in pockets around the U.S.  It was never huge, but there was a nice ripple of interest and support.  A lot of folks recognized the concept's potential as a group travel niche and marketing tool, especially the American Booksellers Assocation, various regional booksellers associations and a few other groups that considered ways to collaborate and capitalize on the trend. In particular, the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association offered several bookstore tours in and around Los Angeles and San Diego.  (Check out the video of their "Beach Towns Bookstore Tour," also in the Archives below.)

Here's what some people have said about Bookstore Tourism:

  • "A charming alternative." -- USA Today
  • "The beginning of a new concept in bookselling." -- Publishers Weekly
  • "Larry Portzline has taken a novel idea on the road." -- Boston Globe
  • "Just the thing to get people not only reading again but visiting their local independents." -- Chicago Tribune
  • Partners and Crime Bookstore, New York City
  • "It's good to know the bibliophile bus is still trucking on through Pennsylvania." -- The Guardian (U.K.)
  • "What a neat idea you came up with!" -- Nancy Pearl, creator of the "One Book, One City" movement and author of "Book Lust"
  • "Buses and Bookstore Tourism: a heavenly marriage?" -- United Motorcoach Association
  • "Imagine the bus business bonanza in this one." -- Trailways Traveler
  • "An inviting concept." -- Women's Lifestyle
  • "Bookstore Tourism explains how to combine travel and the love of literature to support independent bookstores around the world." -- Orlando Sentinel
  • "Here's a travel trend we can get behind." --
  • "Bookstore Tourism opens a new travel niche." -- Newport (Oregon) News-Times
  • "In a world where shopping malls are bona fide tourist attractions, here's an alternative." -- Tucson Citizen
  • "Portzline has found a tremendous market in the printed word -- and book-lovers." -- Destinations Magazine
  • "Bookstore Tourism promotes reading, supports independent booksellers." -- National Council of Teachers of English

Some folks continue to do literary road trips here and there, but the Recession has certainly taken a toll.  I think Bookstore Tourism will rise again, though.  It offers nothing but benefits: to the bookselling and travel industries, to other local retailers, to sponsoring organizations, to campaigns for reading and literacy, and on and on.

Like I told a reporter once: "If they can load people onto a bus and take them to outlet malls for the day, why can't they do the same with indie bookstores?"

From the Bookstore Tourism Archives:
Here's a PDF of the map for my Greenwich Village bookstore tours:
Click here to read a free PDF of my book:

Bookstore Tourism Book Cover
Bookstore Tourism Video

Here's a two-part video of a "Greenwich Village Bookstore Adventure" that I led and a
"Beach Towns" bookstore tour in the Los Angeles area sponsored by
the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association:    

Oh yeah, and here's me singing "Wild Thing" with Dave Barry, Stephen King, Scott Turow, Amy Tan, Frank McCourt and the rest of the Rock Bottom Remainders at Webster Hall in New York on June 1, 2007:
Bookstore Tourism Pics

Some of our bookstore tourists get ready to scatter after arriving on lower Fifth Avenue in New York.

Checking out at Baldwin's Book Barn in West Chester, PA during a Brandywine Valley literary trip.
Kathy "Gidget" Kohner speaks to a group over lunch at Diesel, A Bookstore in Malibu, CA during a "beach towns" bookstore tour sponsored by SCIBA.
Boarding the bus for a Washington, DC trip that included bookstores in Georgetown and Dupont Circle.
Dave Barry and me at BookExpo 2006 in New York.

Sharing stories with Malachy McCourt during the New York is Book Country festival in Greenwich Village, October 2004.
Bestseller Lisa Scottoline talks to our group at Chester County Books in West Chester, PA.
Speaking at the front of the bus while flying down the highway at 75 mph backwards.  Never an easy task.
A reading in one of the coolest bookstore event spaces: the loft at New Dominion Books in Charlottesville, VA.
Partners & Crime in Greenwich Village.
Enjoying dinner after a Greenwich Village Bookstore Adventure.
A favorite of everyone who visits:  Housing Works Used Books Cafe in New York.

A Sampling of Bookstore Tourism Articles

(You can also Google "Bookstore Tourism" here and find LOTS more about it.)
Literary Tour in Greenwich Village
Boston Globe, August 23, 2009

BookLovers Takes New York
SouthCoastToday, February 22, 2008

"Gidget" Charms Beach Towns Bookstore Tourists
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), August 28, 2006

Beach Book Baby: "Gidget" to Greet Bookstore Tourists
Shelf Awareness, August 10, 2006

SCBA Holds Fourth Bookstore Tour
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), July 27, 2006

SCBA Bookstore Tours
Shelf Awareness, July 26, 2006
Booksellers on the Benefits of Bookstore Tourism
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), June 7, 2006
Bookstore Tourism Has Readers Traveling
New York Sun, May 18, 2006
Iowa Bookstores Offer Taste of Local Flavor
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), March 7, 2006
On Tour With 36 Booklovers
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), October 13, 2005
Inside Bookstore Tourism
World Hum: Travel Dispatches from a Shrinking Planet, October 4, 2005
Bookstore Tourism Guru on a Road Trip to the Southwest
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), September 28, 2005
Bookstore Tourism Rolls Up the Coast
Shelf Awareness, September 9, 2005
Bookstore Tourism Rides Again in SCBA Region
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), August 4, 2005
Bookstore Tourists to Do San Diego
Shelf Awareness, July 27, 2005
Engaging reading and an invigorating guide to an appealing and promising concept
Kirkus Discoveries, May 2005
SCBA's Bookseller-Focused Foray into Bookstore Tourism
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), February 24, 2005
An itinerary to leaf through
The Boston Globe, October 24, 2004

Hopping on the Bus -- With Book Lovers
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), October 13, 2004
The Spread of Knowledge
The Guardian (UK), September 4, 2004
Bookworms in the Big Apple
The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 23, 2004
Travel Trend Watch: Bookstore Tourism
World Hum: Travel Dispatches from a Shrinking Planet, June 4, 2004
Booked for Travel
Utne Magazine, May/June 2004
Get on the Bus: Bookstore Tourism
Poets & Writers Magazine, January/February 2004
Those Tour Groups at the Bookstore?  They're From Harrisburg
The Villager, November 19, 2003
Painting the Town Read
Publishers Weekly, August 25, 2003
It's Not About the Bus
Bookselling This Week (American Booksellers Association), July 30, 2003

Retailers Reach Out
Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003