Without a doubt, 2020 was a difficult year, and these difficulties have extended to our neighborhood independent bookstores. These independent bookstores have had to close, shift their business models, and more to survive during the pandemic, but they are not dead yet. Here’s why and how you can help these stores survive.
Book sales are up!
According to Publisher’s Weekly, sales of print books are up 6.4 percent compared to last year. This is a good sign, and also not surprising considering that most people had a lot more free time to read this spring. After closing its doors in March, Powell’s Books in Portland laid off the majority of their staff, only keeping a little over one hundred employees to help keep up with online orders during quarantine.
Your favorite independent bookstores are now online!
We all miss the smell of our local bookshop, sipping a coffee in the crisp fall weather, browsing new titles, and seeing the bookseller’s recommendations. While browsing online at home may not have the same ambiance—unless you provide it yourself—buying books online from your local shop and using delivery or curbside pick up will give them some much needed support. Many independent bookstores have their own website that allows you to browse a larger selection than they have in person.
Check out Bookshop.org.
If the independent bookstore down the block doesn’t have an online presence yet, you can help support independent bookstores across the US by purchasing your books from Bookshop, which provides a platform for independent bookstores to create an online shop. If your local bookstore has their own Bookshop online store they receive 30 percent of the cover price. Not to mention that the website gives back 10 percent of their regular sales to independent bookstores twice a year, even to those who do not do their online sales through Bookshop. Either way, it’s a win for supporting independent booksellers.
The American Booksellers Association, a non-profit organization that supports independent bookstores, also provides a platform for creating an online store. Members of the ABA can create a store through their IndieCommerce platform, which has an extensive catalog of books, ebooks, and audiobooks. Check out the ABA’s list of independent bookstore sites to support bookstores across the country.
Bookstores around the world are trying new things to keep their businesses afloat. A bookstore in New York City started delivering online orders by bicycle, and a bookstore in Santa Monica raised over one hundred thousand dollars on GoFundMe to keep their business solvent. My personal favorite is the story of a bookshop in Mumbai, India that is selling “book hugs.” Patrons at Trilogy can buy a book for someone else and have it delivered with a personal note. I think we could all use a book hug these days, and there is no better way to bring people together.