Bookstores will change, but we don’t know how
Three major factors have impacted booksellers during the coronavirus pandemic.
1. People couldn’t leave their homes to go to bookstores.
2. The quarantine forced store closures due to social distancing.
3. The national spike in unemployment led to fewer discretionary purchases, like books.
Booksellers responded with clever ways of raising funds and customer engagement. At least two dozen independent bookstores launched GoFundMe campaigns to appeal for funds to cover rent, utilities, and payroll. Other booksellers took to social media to request support through online purchases. Many have developed novel ideas to sell novels as we fight the novel virus. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, independent bookstore Midtown Scholar has run a series of virtual author talks instead of in-person ones. MahoganyBooks in Washington, D.C., hosts virtual book clubs on Facebook Live.
“We’re all doing our best to support booksellers during this time, including reminding readers of the accessibility of eBooks and the ease of home delivery,” Moggy says. “What the future holds for bookstores depends a lot on how quickly life returns to ‘normal.’”
“Frankly, we’re hopeful that a lot of the stores will be able to come back since a lot of them are closed,” says Hwang. “It’s really terrible. Hopefully, a lot of libraries will still have funding, too, once everything reopens. I feel like it’s just too early to tell. But I do see a lot of people turning to eBooks because they don’t have to worry about delivery.” And that, too, may become a legacy of the pandemic.
Uncertainty, fear, hope – they’re all parts of a compelling story. But for pandemic publishing, the ending has yet to be written.