As the coronavirus (and worries about it) continues to spread across the globe, the book business is being affected in numerous ways, including more indie bookstores canceling or postponing author events due to concerns regarding COVID-19.
In a message to customers, DIESEL, A Bookstore, Brentwood, Calif., wrote: "We've been getting phone calls and e-mails asking if our events are still going on in the wake of current events, and the answer is 'Yep, they are! Unless...' and regrettably this post is about a couple of those 'Unless...' cases.... Ultimately, we're leaving the decisions to continue with, cancel, or postpone their events up to the authors involved and if you don't hear from us about a specific event, it's still happening. However, anything could change so don't hesitate to reach out to us to make sure."
Terry Tazioli of University Book Store, Seattle, Wash., sent out an e-mail detailing all of the store's event cancelations and changes for March as of March 9, adding: "Other than these, I'd tell you to monitor the Events page at ubookstore.com."
Citing "concerns for the health and well-being of our community," Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif., postponed or canceled several events, noting: "We will announce new dates once they have been rescheduled. Thank you for your patience and understanding and please stay safe!"
In announcing that last night's event with Jessica Lanyadoo had been cancelled, East Bay Booksellers, Oakland, Calif., said it is leaving the decision about events "to the discretion of the authors" and that "as for business itself, also, we're doing pretty okay so far! Thank you for supporting independent businesses, in good times & bad! We can't do any of this without you.
"If time comes that you have to self-quarantine, remember we have a great, easy-to-navigate online store that's available 24/7: ebbooksellers.com. No reason you have to give your brain wholly over to the streaming media demons."
Saying that "we know there are people throughout the Bay Area that would like to visit their local Books Inc. bookstore but are instead stuck at home or trying to limit exposure to public places," Books Inc., with 10 stores in the Bay Area, has begun a free shipping program for all Postal Service media mail orders and reduced pricing for ground shipping. "We're all in need of a good book, especially now, and we want to make it as easy as we can for you to continue to support local independent bookstores like Books Inc. while we collectively learn about and try to manage the impact of the Coronavirus."
Books Inc. added that "unless otherwise announced, scheduled readings will continue as planned. We will continue to have hand sanitizer and/or wipes available."
Kirsten Hess of Let's Play Books, Emmaus, Pa., announced that the inaugural Lehigh Valley Book Festival, originally scheduled for the last weekend in March, will be postponed to June 5-7, noting: "Your health and wellness as well as the health and wellness of our community is our first priority."
The National Book Critics Circle canceled its finalists reading on March 11 and its awards ceremony on March 12 in New York City "due to the volatile nature of the current health crisis." The board plans to deliberate tomorrow and announce the results via press release and social media, as well as with individual e-mails to finalists and winners. The annual gala benefit and reception will be rescheduled for the fall, and the winners of all awards will be celebrated at that time.
"We are all crushed. We did not make this decision lightly," said NBCC president Laurie Hertzel. "We discussed it as a board for days and with the New School at length, but this was really the only possible decision. We are looking forward to celebrating our winners at the rescheduled gala this fall."
We Need Diverse Books announced it will cancel the Diversity in Children’s Literature Symposium and the Walter Dean Myers Award Ceremony, set for March 13, "out of an abundance of caution.... The health of the authors, educators, librarians and students scheduled to attend the event is of greatest concern to We Need Diverse Books. In the next several weeks, we will be assessing our options for holding these events at another time and will keep everyone informed.... Please join us in celebrating the 2020 winners and honorees as well as Walter Dean Myers Award for Leadership and Advocacy in Children’s Literature recipient."
The 2020 Tucson Festival of Books, which was scheduled for March 14-15 and annually draws more than 100,000 people to the University of Arizona campus, has been canceled amid concerns over coronavirus.
In a statement, the board of directors cited several reasons, including more than 100 author cancellations, which affected the author panel schedule "and we anticipate more changes and cancellations will be forthcoming.... We realize that this change in course is significant for the Tucson community, our financial supporters, exhibitors, food vendors and other partners."
"In light of public health concerns related to the coronavirus and out of an abundance of caution," the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, originally scheduled for April, has been rescheduled and will be presented October 3-4 in association with the University of Southern California. Organizers said the Book Prizes awards ceremony, planned for April 17, will not be held this year. Winners and honorees will be acknowledged through an announcement.
The 2020 Virginia Festival of the Book, scheduled for March 18-22 in Charlottesville, has also been canceled. Organizers said: "At its core, the festival is a community event that brings together writers and readers from across the country and around the world. As such, we are committed to prioritizing and protecting the wellbeing of our community, as well as visiting speakers and attendees.... We ask that you please consider purchasing books (from local booksellers) by authors whose programs you were hoping to attend. Further, we will do our best to share information in the future about local events with authors who had been previously scheduled to speak at this year's event."
The Texas Library Association conference, scheduled for March 24-27, will have at least one less exhibitor. A Macmillan spokesperson said yesterday: "Due to an abundance of caution for our employee safety regarding COVID-19, Macmillan Publishers has made the decision to not exhibit at TLA in Houston."
Penguin Random House will not be sending its teams to the rescheduled Bologna Children's Book Fair. The Bookseller reported that the company's "decision not to send teams from the U.S. or U.K., comes after Simon & Schuster also pulled out of the fair last week, citing the health and safety of staff." Fair organizers had announced in February that this year's event would be delayed by a month to begin on May 4 following the coronavirus outbreak, which has since escalated in Italy.
A spokesman for PRH UK told the Bookseller: "In light of the travel risks related to the coronavirus and our ongoing concerns for the health and wellbeing of our employees, authors, and partners, Penguin Random House will not participate in the Bologna Book Fair."
And just this morning, Hachette took action as well, saying in a statement, "In light of the unprecedented action the Italian government is taking to contain the spread of the coronavirus and our ongoing concern for the safety of our colleagues, authors and partners, Hachette UK, Hachette Livre and Hachette Book Group have decided to withdraw from the Bologna Book Fair."
Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, publisher at Macmillan Children's Books, told the Bookseller it was "too early to say" if her teams were still going to Bologna: "We are monitoring the situation closely day by day and of course we would love to attend, but it is just not possible to confirm one way or the other at this point in time."
Last Friday, the Italian Publishers Association (AIE) said Italy's book market "fell 25% in the previous week, with those areas worst-hit by the coronavirus--such as Lombardy, Veneto and Emilia--seeing drops of 50% and above," the Bookseller reported.
The AIE presidential committee held a meeting about presenting their case to government. President Ricardo Franco Levi warned of a "crisis, serious and profound," related not just to initial fall in book sales, but also the longer-term consequences which he said were unpredictable.