Concerns about the novel coronavirus continue to spread. We’ve seen China, Italy and other countries impose widespread quarantines and lockdowns in an effort to contain the new coronavirus. In the US and elsewhere, schools and universities are closing, events are being cancelled, and people are cancelling travel plans and skipping non-essential shopping, opting to avoid crowds as much as possible.
Staying home as much as you can is smart, not just for your health but to avoid spreading the disease to those who may be more vulnerable than you are. There’s plenty of advice about that elsewhere, and I’m not going to repeat it here.
But all of this could really hit brick-and-mortar businesses hard. And bookstores, particularly independents with their razor-slim margins, are likely to take a significant hit if their regular customers stay home, whether voluntarily or by government order.
You can help your favorite bookshops weather a decrease in foot traffic. It’s tempting to do all your shopping through Amazon* (assuming packages can still be delivered.) But Amazon is huge and will survive; your local shops may not. Here are some things you can do to support your local bookstore even through a downturn or quarantine, should one occur:
(1) Contact your local bookstore to find out if they will take phone orders and ship books to your home. If they will, order the books you want from them instead of from Amazon. It may cost a little more, but if your local shop loses too much business, you could lose your bookstore. (This goes for used bookstores, too.)
(2) If your bookstore has a social media presence, follow them. That way you will see any posts they make about what they are doing… and how they are doing. You can’t help if you’re not informed. You can also use social media to promote the store. If they’re going above and beyond to get books to you, let your friends know.
(3) If there’s a book signing and you feel uncomfortable about going, see if you can request to have a book signed. They should be able to either hold it for you or ship it to you.
(4) If you find out the bookstore is struggling, see if there is a way to donate to help them meet their operating costs. This is more likely if your city or locality orders a quarantine. Whether they are just seeing fewer customers or, in the worst-case-scenario, the store must close temporarily, they will still have to pay for rent, utilities, and the books they ordered before all this started — without the income they were expecting. That can drive a store out of business. Think of donating as an investment in the store’s future.
The world may be in for a rough ride, both health-wise and economically. Do everything you can to keep yourselves, your family, and your community healthy. But if you can, extend a metaphorical hand to the businesses you normally rely on. When things get back to normal, you’ll be glad you did.
* Full disclosure: I am an Amazon Prime customer, and I do order things from them, including books at times. That’s partly because of the distance to the nearest small city, which is the only place to buy many of the things I want or need. (We do have a Walmart in our rural/exurban county, but no bookstore, no good clothing store, no fabric or yarn shops… you get the picture.) But when I do get to town, I try to support small, local businesses. And I want those stores, including bookstores, to stay in business!