Keep buying books.
Businesses everywhere are suffering in this time of coronavirus, and this is especially true for independent bookstores. Nationwide, they have been forced to shutter to the public, and even if they’re still open online, times are tough. And this is true for both smaller stores and more widely-known ones–for example, Strand in New York laid off most of its staff, as did Powell’s Books in Portland (though they have since rehired 100 employees to help with online orders). Many bookstores are paying their staff as long as they can. Perseverance is possible, and there’s a chance they’ll stay afloat through all of this–but not without our help. You need your books and they need your business. It goes without saying that Amazon will be around long after lockdown has ended–let’s make sure these local stores stay open in the meantime. They are important to local economies and they’re important to the literary world.
Keep Buying Books (But Not From Amazon, Please!)
Although book shops have closed their doors to the public, many are still fulfilling online orders. Keep in mind that it might take a few days more for shipping than usual, but don’t let this sway you towards ordering from Amazon–you’d probably be waiting just as long for your book order from them, as they’re prioritizing orders containing essential items (so, not books). Bookshop is the independent bookstore alternative to Amazon, which shares its proceeds with small, independent bookstores–you can buy directly from their website, or use their search feature to enter your zip code and it will match you with local bookstores near you (so that you can order directly from that website).
Seriously…You’ve Got Options Other Than Amazon
BookstoreLink links you directly to your local bookshops–you can search the title and the store on their homepage. And from the same people who brought you BookstoreLink, there’s Libro.fm for all of your audiobook needs. They offer a la carte listening options–if there’s just ONE book you need to listen to–as well as a monthly membership for $14.99 a month (only four cents more than an Amazon Audible subscription, which is $14.95 a month) and your first audiobook is free. Also, if you switch from another audiobook provider, you can sign up with a special code and get three audiobooks for the price of one, as a little thank you for switching over to Libro.fm and supporting your local bookstores.
There Are More Things to Buy Than Books
We’re all inside and looking for things to do, and independent bookstores have way more to offer than just books–gifts, puzzles, games, and more are available for purchase at many of their online shops. Many bookstores have clothing items and other “self-care” adjacent items for purchase as well–I’ve been eyeing this cotton waffle-knit robe from The Ripped Bodice (the only exclusively romance bookstore in the U.S., located in L.A.) for several weeks now.
Pay Attention to What Bookstores Are Asking For
Pay attention to what the shops themselves are talking about and asking for–sign up for their newsletters and follow their social media accounts. These are the ways they will be reaching out to the community. And many of them will probably be offering discounts, online classes, and workshops, or doing digital events–all you have to do is keep up with what’s happening when it’s happening–the best way to do that right now is directly from your phone (and inbox).
Spread the Word
Sometimes social pressure is the best influence, so a good way to get people to support indie bookstores is by talking about supporting indie bookstores. If you’ve got book-loving friends or family members perpetually ordering from Amazon during this time, speak up. Mention that there are plenty of other options. Tell them (kindly) about how important these independent shops are to the local economy. You’re not going to convince everyone, but chances are you’ll convince someone–and that’s something.
Form Digital Book Clubs and Read “With” Your Friends
Sometimes we gotta keep each other accountable, and forming a book club with your friends will do just that—you simply must finish the book, as your friends are counting on you. Some meetups are harder to do via Zoom, but a book club is not one of them—you’re literally just discussing books. Also, forming a group like this with friends gives you the opportunity to spread the word about the independent options available online. Chances are if someone’s interested in being a part of a book club at all, they’re also interested in supporting the literary community. Talk to the people you know! You don’t have to get preachy, but there’s nothing wrong with spreading the word however you can.
Participate in Subscription Clubs Online
Many of these individual independent bookstores offer their own book clubs, subscription clubs, and bundles. For example, Book Revue in Long Island has a perks “club” that gives you an extra 10% off every order, as well as a bundle offer on already discounted titles–and chances are your local store is doing something of the same caliber.
Donate to Booksellers Who Were Recently Laid off Due to Coronavirus
McNally Jackson Books in New York was forced to temporarily lay off 80 of its employees in March due to COVID-19 and anticipated revenue loss, but they set up an online page telling you how you can help–the main way to help is donating money to help aid those who’ve lost their jobs (the money will be divided up evenly between all employees). And they’re not the only independent shop that had to do something like this. Another organization offering COVID-19 assistance to bookstores and comic stores is BINC, the Book Industry Charitable Foundation. With BINC, you can donate money to support the bookstores as well as the individual booksellers themselves (or apply for help if you, yourself, are a bookseller).
That Book You Want That Comes out Later in the Year? Order It Now
Preordering books that aren’t out yet is a very good way to support the literary world generally. You’re already planning to spend the money anyway, so why not do it now when the stores need it the most? Preorders are also important for the authors, themselves, as it lets retailers (and consumers) know that their work is in demand and that the book is something to pay attention to. So, yes, you are very much supporting your favorite authors in a big way when preordering their books. And in addition to preorders, you can also buy gift cards from shops to give to friends or use for yourself, down the road. Remember that every dollar counts during this time. Plus, springtime is usually when book sales tend to pick back up again after a bit of a post-winter holiday lull, so buying now is extra helpful.
Insider Tip Don’t have a scroll’s worth of books to buy? Independent bookstores usually have excellent staff recommendations on their websites. Try something new!
Head Over to LitHub for a Full List of Independent Bookstores Near You
Bookstores currently accepting online orders are listed at the bottom of this LitHub article, and there is also an option for you to add your store if you happen to have one. Another good site to pay attention to for all your indie bookstore needs is Indiebound, where you can search for your local stores, purchase eBooks and digital downloads, and find all the best indie bestsellers for more inspiration on what to read next.
Stay safe, readers. Let’s keep our local stores in business so we can go sit in them (and buy things) once we’re able to safely once again.