Small Business Saturday

A Note About Small Business Saturday


This Saturday is Small Business Saturday, a strange holiday that didn't exist a decade ago when I opened Back Pages Books. It is, without question, the most concocted of commercial holidays, started by American Express to encourage cardholders to receive money back for shopping locally one day a year, by registering in advance.


Plenty of our most vociferous supporters have pointed out the flaws in this thing, and of course, I don't disagree with any of them, starting with the fact that I'd love it if everyone supported small businesses every day. Yet it's hard to resist thinking about this day in the broader context of how much has changed in a decade, and where we're at as yet another holiday season begins.


  • A decade ago, Waltham hadn't had a bookstore downtown in over 15 years. Now there are two.
  • A decade ago, Waltham had no citizen advocacy groups for local businesses. Now there is a Local First group comprised of over 90 locally-owned businesses.
  • A decade ago bookstores around the country were dying, and I couldn't breathe a bad word about our largest competitor's fundamentally awful business tactics. Now, indie bookshops are sprouting up again, supported by folks like Stephen Colbert.  
  • A decade ago, AIG, and Lehman Brothers were raking it in. Ten years later, they've gone under.  We've outlasted them, doing trade on a real street in the real world rather than on other people's futures.


Something has changed in this country in the last few years, and it's been kinder to little shops like Back Pages, which is among the smallest bookstores in America, even among independent shops.  We have scrambled every which way, and rather happily, through trying years and successful ones, to keep up with the times, meet our customer's needs and forge ahead as a community institution; part-bookstore, part-resting place from the outside world.  Sometimes it has worked, and sometimes we've blown it.  We're not a computer after all, and that's part of my point.


As we head into Small Business Saturday, I'm writing to ask for your continued support this holiday season, but also to thank you. I'm 32. I'm savvy enough with technology.  I understand how easy it is to click the same button on the same site from the same company that already has all your information-and get what you want.It's a hectic time of year and buying online can save time and money. 


In spite of this, more folks than ever take a moment to send us an e-mail asking if we might order a book for them.It's an added step for you, if not a few added steps, and my only takeaway is that you'd only do it if you saw other values worth a little more than time or money -- values that you support and values that we share.


Of course I would love it if every day were Small Business Saturday. I'd love it if American Express recognized, as so many of you do, that things like books have value greater than credit and cash, as does a small intimate space to spend time with those books, to lose yourself to a room full of universes. 


It will suffice, though, to have Small Business Saturday be a touchstone for a moment of reflection about what all of this means, and a moment for me to reach out to you. Stop by this holiday season. Stop in during those hard winter months that follow, too, where your holiday purchases keep us open late into the night, on those cold, quiet evenings where a bookstore is a great place to hide and hibernate and feast on infinite wonder. 


Happy Holidays,


Alex Green


Back Pages Books

History of Waltham Series Publication #5


The Lost Diary of Roy D. Jones

In 1900 a servant to a well-to-do family in Waltham, Massachusetts, enlisted in the United States Navy. For three years, the young sailor, Roy D. Jones, traveled the world, from Boston to China and back again.  In this lost diary, Jones recounts his first year at sea, telling hilarious, unfortunate, and fascinating tales from ports of call, from Tangiers to Barbados.  Abrupt in its ending, and never completed, Jones' diary is nonetheless an engrossing, unparalleled window into the rough and tumble United States Navy at the turn of the twentieth century.

This edition, which is slightly modified with punctuation for ease of reading, contains illustrations and images from the original diary.





Ben Dooling

I’d put September in my heart
and carry it around forever—
the colors of my heart would change,
until I drop to the earth with a sigh.


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