'Books Aren't in a Hurry'
"We see print and books as a through line or continuity that people can rely on when things get weird or it feels like the world is ending. Books aren't in a hurry."
"We see print and books as a through line or continuity that people can rely on when things get weird or it feels like the world is ending. Books aren't in a hurry."
The American Booksellers Association is taking a range of measures to help members deal with the effects of the coronavirus, as outlined in a letter to members from ABA CEO Allison Hill. Among the measures:
The ABA is making a $100,000 donation to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc) to help in the organization's "efforts to assist booksellers with medical expenses, quarantine-related expenses, lost wages, and personal household expenses during the crisis as well as bookstores that are unable to pay store rent and/or utility expenses due to store closures or restrictions related to the virus."
The ABA is offering booksellers three months of membership dues relief or credit. Stores that pay quarterly will not be charged for next quarter; stores that pay monthly will not be charged for the next three months (through May); and stores that pay annually will receive a 25% refund.
The ABA is paying out IndieCommerce store revenue more frequently during the crisis--once a week--in order to help stores with cash flow.
Because online sales have increased at indies and because Amazon is letting book sales slide until at least April 5, the ABA is emphasizing its support of bookstore e-commerce. IndieCommerce continues to set up IndieLite sites for free through May 31 for bookstores that don't currently have e-commerce sites, and the team is working around the clock to ensure that existing e-commerce sites can keep up with increased volume. Hill added that the ABA is "in ongoing communication with Ingram as they continue to work to support direct-to-home sales from store websites as well."
Hill invited booksellers to join an open forum to discuss questions and concerns and share support and ideas about the COVID-19 outbreak with colleagues. The COVID-19 Open Forum meetings will be held via Zoom every weekday, 3-4 p.m. Eastern, through April 30.
She also urged booksellers to apply for Facebook's $100 million in cash grants and credit for small businesses, and noted that some states have pushed back sales tax due dates.
Hill concluded: "ABA is here to support you; please reach out if there is anything we can do to help. And I'm going to keep repeating this as our mantra right now: We are an incredibly creative, resilient, supportive industry. We'll get through this, together."
Penguin Random House has announced that "in light of the New York City and State guidance to substantially limit the size of events and number of participants in public gatherings, we regret that we have had to make the difficult decision to withdraw as a participant in BookExpo and BookCon 2020. We will be exploring additional ways to connect with booksellers, librarians and readers going forward."
BookExpo is scheduled to be held May 27-29 at the Javits Center in New York City, followed on the weekend by Book Con May 30-31. Reed Exhibitions has said that it is optimistic that the shows will go on and that it is following CDC and federal, state and local government guidelines and precautions.
|At Green Apple Books|
Due to the lockdown, however, orders can be fulfilled only through Ingram, and Mulvihill said he's grateful for their partnership and capabilities right now, but nervous about what would happen if Ingram is forced to close their warehouses. And because the store is classified as a "non-essential" business, it cannot do curbside pickup like many stores around the country are doing.
On the subject of how his staff his faring, Mulvihill said they are fearful but understanding of the reality. He added that on a personal level he swings between despondence and hope, with some possible bright spots on the horizon including Facebook's $100 million fund; city, state and federal help; a possible moratorium on commercial evictions in San Francisco; and Binc seeing a surge in donations, among other things.
"The focus is on helping staff stay employed as long as possible," he said, and then connecting them with other support when that time comes.---
Nina Barrett, owner of Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Ill., made the decision to close her store to foot traffic over the weekend. Since then, she reported, she's seen an "extraordinary response" from her customers. She and her team had been hoping for a minimum of 20-25 orders per day and so far are getting about 30. Order sizes range from a single paperback to one customer who placed a $500 order for books he said he'd normally order from Amazon but he decided it would be better to support a local business.
"I don't want to sound overconfident about the situation, because really this is very early days, and I am very much aware that as this goes along, most of our customers will be impacted financially," Barrett said. But for the moment, she continued, it's been gratifying to have a path forward that sustains the business, keeps the staff intact and provides a service to the community, since so many are at home and at loose ends.
Over the past few days, Barrett and her staff have received many requests for games and activity books, though so far they haven't had much time to get new stock in. For the moment, they're working with existing stock while thinking about what might work for the future.
Barrett added that being able to have a semi-normal workday has boosted morale for her and her staff, especially as the news seems only to get worse.
While most Barnes & Noble stores remain open but with shorter hours and all events cancelled through April, the company is preparing for layoffs and shutdowns.In a letter to staff (via Vice), CEO James Daunt said that store closings will lead to "the hardest of choices. The truth is that we cannot close our doors and continue to pay our employees in the manner of Apple, Nike, Patagonia and REI. They can do this because they have the resources necessary; we, and most retailers of our sort, do not."
"This is a devastating situation in which to find ourselves and we understand the personal impacts of such action," Daunt continued. "When a closed store is permitted to reopen, we will do so, and we intend to rehire."
In a letter to customers, B&N outlined the measures it's taking to protect the safety of customers and booksellers and concluded: "At heart we are all book lovers, and like many of you, we turn to books in times of crisis--to keep us informed, to educate and entertain our families, and often just to escape for a little while into a captivating story. For those of you who choose to visit us in a store, our booksellers will be there to welcome you and recommend your next great read. We deeply appreciate your support in these difficult times."
Books-A-Million continues to operate. CEO and president Terrance Finley told Chain Store News that the company is "doing all we can to assure that our stores are a clean and safe environment for both our customers and our associates. Reading, sharing stories, supporting our children's educational needs, playing games and connecting as families has never been more important than it is during these times of challenge and disruption. Serving our communities has and will continue to be our focus."
BAM has added free curbside pick-up for customers at all stores. Chief marketing officer Scott Kappler commented: "This new service not only provides an added convenience to our shoppers, but it also helps the community during a time when social distancing has become a necessary measure."
Half Price Books has closed its more than 120 stores until March 31 and has suspended purchases from customers but is offering curbside pickup at most of its stores.
President and CEO Sharon Anderson Wright said, "We are determined to stay on top of the situation and will follow the guidelines set forth by our local communities to make the best decisions possible for our employees and our customers.... Our hearts go out to everyone affected by this epidemic."---
Many independent booksellers have been expressing gratitude for the way their customers have stepped up to support them during the rapidly changing coronavirus crisis, as bookstores seek every possible alternative to connect with patrons, including free delivery and curbside service.
"Our customers' support has overwhelmed us--literally!" Belmont Books, Belmont, Mass., said. "Your enthusiasm has clogged our phone lines, backed up our order processing, used up our paper bags & ruined our resolution to cut down on caffeine. We are incredibly grateful! But please be patient while we try to catch up."
|At Scrawl Books|
"Yesterday was our biggest delivery day ever. Thanks to everyone who ordered. Let us keep you reading!" Scrawl Books, Reston, Va., said.
"WEST SEATTLE!!! We are completely amazed and grateful for the outpouring of support we have received over the last couple of days," Paper Boat Booksellers wrote. "It was the first day of being closed to the public and the amount of orders by email and phone today... wow, thank you!! We have a ton more special orders to call in the morning so if you didn't get a call today about your book being in you will most likely hear from us tomorrow-curbside delivery, home delivery, we did it all today.
Author Laura King Edwards observed: "As much of the world adopts social distancing measures, small businesses need our support. Want a good book to read at home during the next several weeks? Please consider purchasing online from your favorite independent bookseller. Don't have a favorite? Here are some of mine: Park Road Books, Main Street Books--Davidson, NC, Scuppernong Books, Flyleaf Books, Quail Ridge Books."
Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill, N.C., responded: "Thank you so much, Laura! Y'all have absolutely had our back so far. Phones ringing off the hook, online order queue gone crazy, tons of books & puzzles getting shipped out or picked up daily. We are so grateful."
From Hicklebee's Bookstore, San Jose, Calif.: Hello from Hicklebee's! Our doors are closed but we're still taking phone and online orders. A big thank you to everyone who has supported us, we plan on sticking around to help you all through the next couple weeks SO THERE!"
And flowers! Titcomb's Bookshop, East Sandwich, Mass.: "To the person who brought us flowers when she came to pick up her book: THANK YOU!! This brightened our day, and reminded us of the kindness of humanity. Our community has been so great in this time of crisis. Thank you for being the best customers and friends anyone could ever ask for!!"
On Tuesday in Franklin, Ind., Wild Geese Bookshop noted: "Thank you so much for your orders. We are still receiving new inventory and trying to find a new normal. Every time you support us, you help us pay our beloved booksellers and keep those pages turning. Thank you for your support and for your friendship. I am rooting for you and your health and businesses too and praying hard for our healthcare providers.
"On this St. Patrick's Day, I've been thinking a lot about these words from poet and theologian @padraigotuama: '...in Irish, when you talk about trust, there's a beautiful phrase from West Kerry where you say, 'mo sheasamh ort lá na choise tinne'--'You are the place where I stand on the day when my feet are sore.' That is soft and kind language, but it is so robust. That is what we can have with each other. Thank you for being that place for me. I hope this space can always be that place for you."
These are unprecedented and grievous times. Only a few days ago we had reason to hope that we could continue with our meaningful work of bookselling and maintain some small semblance of normalcy. Now we see the path ahead more clearly: it is dark and scary.
I have always described Powell's as resilient: lumbering sometimes, full of quirks and personality, but always resilient. We are having that resilience tested as never before. As you all know, we made the decision, with only a small amount of time to act, to close all of our stores over the weekend. We felt we could not wait a moment longer for the sake of the health of our community. We had hoped to find some way to consider this a short-term closure. Today, only one more day out from that decision, we now understand what we all must face: an extended, difficult period of significant measures to protect public health. We don't expect we will be able to open our doors for at least eight weeks, and very likely longer. When we do open our stores again, we expect the landscape of Oregon, and all of our abilities to spend money on books and gifts, will have changed dramatically. I wish we could have planned more and prepared you more; the situation simply moved too quickly and our responsibility to act quickly to protect public health felt too dire.
When we closed our doors, we also closed off the vast majority of our business without any prospect of it returning soon. As a result, we have been forced to make the unthinkable decision to lay off the vast majority of you in the coming few days. Many people have spoken publicly demanding we pay our employees and extend health insurance for the duration. No one can possibly know how much I wish I could make that happen. We are simply not that kind of business--we run on duct tape and twine on a daily basis, every day trading funds from one pocket to patch the hole in another. We have worked hard over the years to pay the best possible wages, health care and benefits, to make contributions to our community, to support other non-profits. Unfortunately, none of those choices leave extra money on hand when the doors close. And when the doors close, every possible cost must stop as well.
I am doing everything within my power to keep Powell's alive for the next generation of readers and writers, for the next generation of Portland and Oregon. And yet Powell's is also where I grew up and have spent most of my life, and I cannot imagine attempting to move forward without so many of you, colleagues who feel like family. Please know none of our choices were made lightly, and our slow communication has masked our desperate efforts to find a different possible path.
My heart breaks for all of us. Our stores are meant to be full, our city bustling, our minds at ease. And for a time, none of those will be true. I know for many of you, your lives will be forever altered by our decision to close our stores and you will never think of Powell's the same. For all of that and more, I am deeply sorry. I can only hope we might find a way to come back together on the other side of these terrible times.
Describing the moment as "bittersweet," Book + Bottle opened for business briefly on Tuesday at 17 Sixth St. North in St. Petersburg, Fla.
On Facebook, owner Terra Dunham posted: "Come on in for our first last hurrah! We're opening NOW and will be open till 5PM today (Tuesday 3/17). We've got coffee, beer, wine, and books--great survival items! Come enjoy your last few hours of freedom! Moving forward, until things change again, we will be doing local delivery and curbside service for coffee, retail wine, and books. Stay tuned for what our inventory is for ordering. Thanks for the support in these crazy times, and Happy St. Paddy's Day!! May the luck of the Irish be with us all."
In an earlier post, Dunham had noted: "The bright side of opening a business this week is that books and wine are both wonderful entertainment in self-quarantine.... Come see the space and grab a bottle and a book to help you survive your isolation."
Anna Thorn, former independent bookseller and book industry consultant, has been named the new director of the Independent Publishers Caucus. She will not only guide the organization's advocacy efforts on behalf of independent publishers but also broaden IPC's role within the book world.
"Throughout my career in books, it has been a priority to promote the amazing work that indie publishers are doing," Thorn said. "It's a privilege for that to be my new focus with IPC. I can't wait to get started."
In addition to hiring Thorn, IPC has recently joined the California Independent Booksellers Alliance on behalf of all IPC members. And this week, IPC has sent a Coronavirus Best Practices document to its members and is working on ways for publishers to support indie bookstores during the pandemic.
As indie bookselling is adapting and responding to the changing world, it's important to keep in touch with your customers and remind them about your online presence and other services. If you're in need of a low staff impact, direct e-mail option, we offer a free customized version of Shelf Awareness for Readers for your store. This twice-weekly newsletter is branded with your store logo and links to your store website, social media pages and e-commerce, and offers ways to feature other custom content. There are 168 independent bookstore partners across the country currently using the bookstore edition to promote books and keep in touch with their customers, from Books & Books in Florida to Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle. We're all in this together! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to sign up.
Alice Morgan and Kevin Brockett, who share a passion for reading, "often found themselves hanging out" at Blue Plate Books in Winchester, Va., when they started dating. They decided it was the perfect location for their wedding, and last Sunday the two exchanged vows before a small group of family and friends, with Morgan's mother Carol Smith, a Methodist minister, officiating, the Star reported.
"I think we can all be in agreement that we can't think of a better place for you guys to get married," Smith said to Brockett during the ceremony. "I've heard stories of your book buying in your early days and I can attest that the only thing Alice ever wanted when she was growing up was a stack of books. I only had to limit her on how many she could get. So a perfect place for you guys. And a place that's a part of you getting to know each other."
|MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, N.H., is offering curbside car hop service|
In addition to services like free delivery and curbside pickup, many temporarily shuttered indie bookstores are finding innovative ways to serve their customers, spark engagement and keep lines of communication open during this challenging time.
"Parking Lot Pickup" is available at Books on the Square, Providence, R.I, "and we've got puzzles and games to help make isolation a little more fun! Plus any title in stock is available for immediate pickup! Give us a call with any questions!"
Dotters Books, Eau Claire, Wis., noted: "One of my favorite things about browsing in a bookshop is finding books that I've never heard of. If you're already missing that magical feeling, we've got you covered. We've created a NEW & RECENTLY RESTOCKED section and you can access it directly from our homepage--dottersbooks.com. So grab your coffee, pretend Mr. Rogers's trolley just rolled by, and enter our Make Believe bookshop! Luckily, the books are very real and if you live in Eau Claire they can be delivered to your door."
Print: A Bookstore, Portland, Maine helpfully shared a new measurement standard: "Proper Social Distancing = Nine Richard Russo Books." The author's daughter Emily Russo is a co-owner of Print.
The Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan., noted: "Because reading can help in difficult times, and because @lawrencelibrary is closed, and because not everyone can access the privilege of buying new books, we're placing a selection of free books outside our front door. They'll be there as long as we have 'em and it's not raining."
At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:
Taryn Roeder has been promoted to v-p, director of publicity.
Michelle Triant has been promoted to senior publicity manager.
Tara Shanahan has been promoted to associate director of publicity, HMH Books for Young Readers.
Anna Ravenelle has been promoted to publicity associate, HMH Books for Young Readers.
Shara Alexander has joined the company as associate director of publicity.
Take It Away, Tommy!: A Breaking Cat News Adventure by Georgia Dunn (Andrews McMeel).
Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.
Saturday, March 21
12 p.m. C-SPAN visits local authors and literary sites in San Antonio, Texas. (Re-airs Sunday at 10 a.m.)
12:45 p.m. An interview with Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books in Coral Gables, Fla., about the impacts of coronavirus on bookstores. (Re-airs Sunday at 10:45 a.m.)
4 p.m. Serena Zabin, author of The Boston Massacre: A Family History (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30, 9780544911154). (Re-airs Sunday at 7 p.m.)
6 p.m. Alexis Coe, author of You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington (Viking, $27, 9780735224100), at Politics and Prose in Washington, D.C.
7 p.m. Jonathan Horn, author of Washington's End: The Final Years and Forgotten Struggle (Scribner, $30, 9781501154232). (Re-airs Sunday at 11 p.m.)
8 p.m. Cyntoia Brown-Long, author of Free Cyntoia: My Search for Redemption in the American Prison System (Atria, $26, 9781982141103). (Re-airs Monday at 2 a.m.)
9 p.m. David Kilcullen, author of The Dragons and the Snakes: How the Rest Learned to Fight the West (Oxford University Press, $27.95, 9780190265687). (Re-airs Sunday at 2:15 p.m.)
10 p.m. Jennifer Steinhauer, author of The Firsts: The Inside Story of the Women Reshaping Congress (Algonquin, $27.95, 9781616209995). (Re-airs Sunday at 9 p.m. and Monday at 12 a.m. and 3 a.m.)
10:55 p.m. Coverage of the 2020 Audie Awards, given by the Audio Publishers Association to recognize "distinction in audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment." (Re-airs Sunday at 5:30 p.m.)
Sunday, March 22
12:30 a.m. Michael Strain, author of The American Dream Is Not Dead (Templeton Press, $12.95, 9781599475578). (Re-airs Sunday at 8 p.m.)
1:30 a.m. Tim Bakken, author of The Cost of Loyalty: Dishonesty, Hubris, and Failure in the U.S. Military (Bloomsbury, $28, 9781632868985).
2:40 a.m. Joanne McNeil, author of Lurking: How a Person Became a User (MCD, $28, 9780374194338), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.
9:55 p.m. Richard Frank, author of Tower of Skulls: A History of the Asia-Pacific War, Volume I: July 1937-May 1942 (Norton, $40, 9781324002109).
The British Book Awards (aka the Nibbies) ceremony, which was scheduled for May 18 in London, has been postponed until June 29 as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the Bookseller reported. Shortlists will be announced later this week.
"The Nibbies are the night of the year when we can all celebrate the best books, publishers and bookshops," said Nigel Roby, CEO and publisher of Bookseller Media, which runs the annual event. "It is central to the book trade and central to the Bookseller. We don't have a crystal ball but all of us hope fervently that we can get together on 29th June and enjoy the success and resilience of Britain's leading creative industry."
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez (Algonquin, $25.95 hardcover, 272p., 9781643750255, April 7, 2020)
Set in present-day Vermont and around the East Coast and Midwest, the story follows retired college professor Antonia Vega through a time of grief and turmoil. Her husband, Sam, has just died, and while Antonia is adjusting to the "afterlife," her older sister, Izzy, disappears. Antonia and her other sisters believe Izzy has bipolar disorder, and hire a private investigator to help them find their missing sibling. While this is going on, Antonia's neighbor, Mario, an undocumented farm worker, solicits her help in getting his undocumented girlfriend, Estela, away from the coyotes who facilitated her illegal crossing and safely to Vermont. Alvarez pulls all these threads together into a narrative that is in equal measure pensive and taut.
Much of Afterlife focuses on the fears and torments immigrants face daily. Antonia returns home after trying to locate her sister to find Estela hiding out in her garage. The frightened young woman is pregnant, and Antonia does her best to help her. Antonia herself is a Latina immigrant--one long settled in the U.S., but who still struggles to feel confident in the Anglo world. Alvarez contrasts her protagonist's otherness with the desperation of Estela in what amounts to a compelling examination of first-world privilege. The novel also captures the omnipresent threat of deportation of undocumented workers, the ongoing menace of ICE raids and the way the undocumented are both exploited and discarded by U.S. society. Some of the tensest moments in the book come when local law enforcement officials confront Antonia about Estela.
More than anything, though, Afterlife is a poignant meditation on death and the many ways humans deal with the absence of loved ones. Sam lives on through Antonia in how she thinks and speaks, reminding her to do good in the world. Antonia is aging, and she wonders what legacy she'll leave behind, how she will persist, if at all, in the imaginations of others. Alvarez's deft prose turns beautifully evocative at just the right moments, producing a heightened sense of mortality and human yearning: "The evenings are long, the light lingering like a child fighting sleep to have one more bit of the day gone by."
Afterlife is a succinct and powerful novel about human connection. Alvarez writes with depth and the hard-won wisdom that comes with age and experience. She is a writer in full command of her form, reminding the world of her vast and venerable talent. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset
Shelf Talker: In Julia Alvarez's moving novel, a widow must find her distressed sister and help an undocumented couple while contending with her own mortality.