How Real Booksellers Are Faring This Holiday Season: Part II

To say the least, 2020 has been a year for the books. The effects of the ongoing pandemic have made what is often the most crucial financial period for bookstores in a good year all the more strange and precarious. This holiday season, we wanted to check in with real booksellers around the world about how they’re doing, how their bookstores have been affected by the complications of this year, and what readers and patrons can do to help.

We asked, and they delivered! We got so many great responses that we decided to break them into two parts. Check out the first installment and read on for more:

What’s been the biggest challenge associated with the pandemic for you as a bookseller?

 “Space. We can’t social distance at all.”
—Kirsten, Let’s Play Books Bookstore (Emmaus, PA)

 “Sales have dropped as the pandemic lingers and people are remaining under-employed or unemployed.”
—Robyn, Eden Books (Newberry, FL)

“I am so lucky that our store was able to keep most of our staff. My biggest challenge was trying to figure out how to keep getting books to readers in a time where we couldn’t operate as usual.”
—Anna, Katy Budget Books (Katy, TX)

“Longer, busier days that balance in-person bookselling with increased phone/email/website communication.”
—Mattie, Gramercy Books (Bexley, OH)

“Having to cut my hours to be home to supervise virtual school.”
—Genavieve, Books & Company (Oconomowoc, WI)

What is your biggest worry as a bookseller?

“That the job I love will be the thing that exposed me and my family to this deadly virus.”
—Rayna, Garden District Book Shop (New Orleans, LA)

“My staff getting sick from a customer. I worry each day about that. Also, the fear of, Will the next person in the door be the one that gets violent when we ask them to cover their nose or sanitize their hands?”
Sam, Aaron’s Books (Lititz, PA)

“That given only online options for shopping during the pandemic, people will choose the easiest route—Amazon.”
—Sydne, A Room of One’s Own (Madison, WI)

“That we will lose so many unique bookstores and other local business throughout the world.
—Terri, Swamp Fox Bookstore (Marion, IA)

“Making something I love into a career that supports my family.”
—R. Aimee, The Bluestocking Bookshop (Holland, MI)

Have you found anything to be a silver lining?

“Curbside pickups give me a chance to stand in the sun for a bit during the day.”
—Haley, The Writer’s Block (Las Vegas, NV)

“I think the shuttered shops of April made the SHOP LOCAL message more resonant. People could imagine their neighborhood or town without indie businesses, so they were reminded of the value of said indie businesses.”
—Pete, Green Apple Books (San Francisco, CA)

“Getting both local and non-local people using are website to see what a large collection of books we have on hand, [or] that can be ordered by our store.”
—Kelli, Island Books & Crafts (Sault Ste. Marie, MI)

“We learned early on in quarantine how to shift our operations to strictly-online shopping and it’s changed the way we process orders. If another shutdown happens, we’d be able to adequately adapt. But that’s also dependent on the health of so many other services, including the USPS and publishing houses shipments.”
—Nicholas, The Writer’s Block (Las Vegas, NV)

“I do see an uptick in people reading romance.”
—Robyn, Eden Books (Newberry, FL)

What’s something that’s given you hope?

“Most people where I live are wearing masks and seem to be taking the virus seriously.”
—Rayna, Garden District Book Shop (New Orleans, LA)

“Our sales have actually gone UP in recent months from last year!”
—Karlene, Shelf Life Books, (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

“Talking with the bookseller community about the struggles we’ve had and ideas on how to continue creating buzz. This community is so supportive!”
—R. Aimee, The Bluestocking Bookshop (Holland, MI)

“The tsunami is online orders from people who want our store to live.”
—Jae, Bookshop Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)

“The number of times customers have said, ‘I’m so glad you’re here.’”
—Mattie, Gramercy Books (Bexley, OH)

Beyond buying books, how else can people support bookstores?

“Tell your neighbors how much our store means to you and ask them to support us too. We will only survive if we are not forgotten.”
—Cindi, Ink Spell Books (Half Moon BayCA)

“Spreading the word. A social media post with a pic of their latest purchase with the store tagged. Shop locally then BRAG about it!”
—Pete, Green Apple Books (San Francisco, CA)

“Never underestimate the impact of cookies. Also sharing social media posts, but really, cookies.”
—Nialle, The Haunted Bookshop (Iowa City, IA)

“Share the bookstore with friends, family, and coworkers. Especially this year. Word of mouth matters in an industry built for human connection.”
—Laura, Red Hen Bookshop (online)

“As a partly used bookstore, donations of books are welcomed.”
—Kelli, Island Books & Crafts (Sault Ste. Marie, MI)

Anything else you’d like to share?

“Just that, beyond the dire circumstances of this year, it shouldn’t take a financial or federal or viral crisis for people to understand the value of supporting bookstores and other independent businesses.”
Nicholas, The Writer’s Block (Las Vegas, NV)

“Having partners like has been great. Not just getting us through 2020, but showing the world that there are other less monopolistic options out there.”
—Sam, Aaron’s Books (Lititz, PA)

We’re happy to help! Thank you to all the booksellers who weighed in, and to all the indie booksellers and bookstores around the world for all you do for your communities! Find even more responses here.

Looking for more ways to support bookstores?

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