Whether you are a writer, a seller, publisher, editor or reader, if you love books, then you must love bookstores, too. Right now, among many in America, our local, independent bookstores are facing a crisis. It’s not their first, of course. They rose phoenix-like in recent years after surviving the onslaught of online sales and the 2008 recession. The questions is: Can they survive again?
An event like this was something we could hardly imagine beyond a work of fiction. We are all doing what we can to navigate this pandemic, trying to remain healthy and safe with social distancing, city and state lockdowns, and non-essential business closures. But our small businesses are essential to our communities. Bookstores, in particular.
Bookstores are vital to the literary industry. They have hosted us for events and launches, they have recommended our work, put us on their shelves; they are our champions. For their neighborhoods, they often serve as friends or extended family, a comforting space to roam and discover, and provide trusted advice on what next to read. They are the special beating hearts of our communities. They are truly special places.
We know their value to us professionally and personally, but their value economically is also crucial. A larger portion of money spent in independent stores stays in the local economy than a chain store; zero dollars are kept in the community from an online retailer. Yet, many of us are quick to link to Amazon out of habit, convenience or a desire to reach the most readers. Now, in light of this crisis, we need to turn our focus toward saving our local booksellers. We can start today by adopting bookstores and doing what we can to drive business to them.
If you are an author, poet, journalist, editor, publisher, podcaster or blogger, please reach out to your fellow booklovers and ask them to join us in this endeavor. The request is simple: Encourage our readers/audience to set aside the one-click habit and make the effort—the investment!—in their local bookstores by buying books through them during this crisis and beyond. Send links to the stores’ websites, their Bookshop.org stores (for physical copies or audiobooks), or a link to IndieBound (e-books, hard copies and audio). Many local bookstores are offering online, phone or email sales with home delivery, curb-side pick-up or mailed options. Make your online community aware of this, too.
While the L.A.L.A. Society is focusing on Los Angeles and the surrounding communities, please encourage booklovers throughout the US to do the same. If authors in every city and state participated in adopting bookstores, perhaps the blow to those small businesses will be softened, and more will be there to open their doors to us when this is over. For that to be a possibility, we need to shout this out as soon as possible and as often as possible.
We love our bookstores. We love our bookloving community. Thank you for doing what you can!
Sandra Ann Miller
Author/Founding Member of the L.A.L.A. Society