Best Independent Bookstore

Readers' Pick

First Place: Chop Suey Books

2913 W. Cary St.

Second Place: Fountain Bookstore

Third Place: Black Swan Books

It's no light read being an indie bookstore these days. Behemoth bookseller Barnes & Noble dominates the trade. (a "very destructive" force, according to Chop Suey owner Ward Tefft) is pushing its own imprints and hiring authors, including Richmond's David L. Robbins, directly. But Chop Suey and its mascot cat keep turning the pages. The 11-year-old shop carries old and new books, curates its selections carefully and offers what Barnes & Noble has plus the odd-but-interesting offbeat author. "We have 1,250 new titles and about 45,000 in all," Tefft says. "We spend a lot of time hand-picking." Still, the specter of electronic publishing looms. Speaking of Robbins, second-place winner Fountain Bookstore, a gem in Shockoe Slip, refuses to carry his latest book because the Amazon deal cut out independent stores' profits. Tefft took a different tack, agreeing to sell Robbins' "The Devil's Waters, " a novel about Somali pirates, and hold his launch party. "No matter who supports him, he is a local author," Tefft says. Black Swan Books in the Fan, which specializes in used and rare books, will send book buyers on "house calls" to save customers the trip. So take that,

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