Rainbow is Madison’s cooperatively owned and collectively managed bookstore that provides books and resources which challenge the status quo. Founded by a dedicated group of volunteers in 1989, we are a community resource center for activists, scholars, and engaged citizens as well as books lovers of all sorts.
The cooperative is owned by its consumer members, and is currently staffed by several dozen volunteers and two paid staff. Our collective management style serves as a model for a democratically controlled economy, in opposition to private profit at the expense of community. (More detailed history here…)
Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative offers more than books. In addition to a wide variety of magazines, zines, underground publications and craft items, we also serve as a meeting place, social space, and informational hub for Madison’s progressive community.
Each year we bring radical authors and speakers to town for public events, conferences and cultural events. We strive to support small presses and alternative publishers, especially worker-owned businesses. We also provide textbooks for courses taught by progressive faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Edgewood College and the Madison Area Technical College. Within the increasingly narrow context of the corporate bookselling industry, from the mega-chains to amazon.com, Rainbow offers a politically conscious alternative. We also provide books for scores of “off-site” events for visiting authors and alternative gatherings. If you’re in the area, please come visit our store and see the difference a co-op makes.
As part of our mission to serve all and provide access to great books while actively advancing ideals of social justice, we established the Wisconsin Books to Prisoners Project. Learn more about this project here.
How does a Co-op bookstore work?
Rainbow Bookstore is powered by a wealth of community members who volunteer their time and talents to make the store run. Learn more about our fabulous volunteers or inquire about how you could plug in.
Rainbow Bookstore is governed by a Board of Directors, elected by the Rainbow Membership annually.
The heart of Rainbow Bookstore Co-op remains our members. Members support the bookstore by patronizing and using its services. We encourage all visitors to Madison to visit our store. Anyone can shop at Rainbow; however members receive a 10% discount on all purchases and become eligible to vote.
In this day and age of encroaching economic clout by the increasingly monopolistic corporate book chains and the online giants, we can only continue to do what we do through the support of like-minded friends and comrades, those who see the value and importance of an independent and progressive bookstore that provides alternative and radical messages to the broader activist world.
We’re also a member of IndieBound.
In December 2012, we adopted a new mission statement:
Rainbow Bookstore Cooperative is a cooperatively owned and collectively managed bookstore, resource center, and media outlet. Social movement cultures require a robust infrastructure for dissent and experimentation, and we are committed to strengthening and expanding that infrastructure. To this end, we maintain a safe space where people can gather, learn, organize, and thrive; we facilitate the production of local political media; we make available printed media from independent publishers on topics neglected by the dominant culture; and we seek relationships with parallel projects in this age of global transformation.