April 14, 2020
While people are starting to get restless cooped up in their homes, they’re turning to the arts and creative fields to fill the seemingly endless hours, one such art being books. For those who are financially able, it’s an excellent time to invest back into local bookstores to keep them going.
Even before the pandemic struck, local and independent bookstores struggled to make ends meet. Sure, there are a few stores with big names, like The Strand in New York and The Last Bookshop in Los Angeles, that experience excellent foot traffic because of their notoriety. In 2019, local bookstores were making a comeback. However, even the biggest bookstores have hit hard times with the recent pandemic, causing most stores to close their doors due to their status as non-essential. Their largest competitor, Amazon, remains open for business and is likely to not experience the same kind of financial loss that indies and Barnes & Noble are facing.
One of the best, and seemingly no-brainer, ways to immediately help an independent bookstore is to buy their books. The great thing about books is that they have a long shelf-life. Many of their stories remain timeless, and they serve as an excellent form of escapism from the constant news updates flooding TV and social media. Most warehouses and distributors are still in operation, so books can be delivered right to your door. Several stores are doing free shipping and running promotions to help make this a little easier on their patrons’ budgets. If there isn’t a bookstore near you, a great alternative is Bookshop.org, which is an independent online bookseller that donates a portion of their sales to various local bookstores.
Pre-ordering books is still an option, especially if there’s a novel that isn’t out yet that you’re excited to read. Pre-order sales are super important not only to bookstores but to authors as well, especially debut authors. These books typically will fall under the same shipping options as those currently on shelves, depending on the release date, but it’s best to check with the specific store beforehand.
If reading paper books isn’t your style, e-books and audiobooks are still great sales. Many e-books are still available for online purchase through the bookstore’s website. Exact formats are the same for most e-readers, so double check prior to purchasing. Using Libro.fm is the perfect alternative to Audible. Similar to Audible, Libro.fm is an audiobook streaming service that allows users to buy and stream audiobooks on their devices. The difference is that people can select specific bookstores to support through their audiobook purchases, and a portion of the sale will go directly to that store.
Looking for something book-adjacent? Bookstores don’t just sell books. A lot of bookstores sell other gifts and miscellaneous items like journals, pens, stationary and puzzles. They are more than happy to supply hours of
procrastination work during the pandemic. Again, these items are still available to be shipped directly to your door. Check with your independent bookstore to see specific pricing.
If supporting your indie bookstore is what you’re after but don’t have a book you want to buy, most stores are still selling gift cards. These are perfect for future gifts for yourself or for others. The Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) is another company to which patrons can donate money and support stores. This company assists, specifically, the booksellers who are no longer able to work.
Be sure to subscribe to stores’ newsletters and follow them on social media. These are the most immediate forms of communication they have to reach customers, and they will have up-to-date information.
These bookstores, when they are finally able to re-open for in-person shopping, serve as community gathering spaces, and they foster a sense of togetherness as unique as the smell of ink on paper. Purchasing their books and other products is a great way to ensure these pillars of communities are able to be there for us when we meet in person again.
Sophie Schmidt is an avid reader and activist who wants to work with stories for the rest of her life. To pursue this, she’s studying professional writing and has a minor in Asian Pacific American studies. When she’s not in class, Sophie can be found cuddled up reading a good book with her cats.