The World of Books Braces for a Newly Ominous Future
In these isolated times, many people are inside reading, but the book business, like others, is bracing for catastrophe. As the severity of the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify, authors, publishers and booksellers are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout.
The potential long-term effects for book retailers are sobering. A growing number of independent booksellers have responded to the public health crisis by closing their stores and sending employees home. Other bookstores, which often serve as community hubs as well as businesses, are trying to offset falling foot traffic by offering customers free delivery or curbside pickup.
The American Booksellers Association said it has been lobbying publishers to support independent stores by offering discounts, free shipping to customers and a removal of the cap on returns of unsold titles, among other measures. Other groups have been raising money to donate to hard-hit independent stores.
Still, many in the industry worry that financial losses stemming from the outbreak will cripple a significant number of stores and cause them to close permanently. Others fear that the lockdowns and government guidelines mandating social distancing will give an even greater advantage to Amazon as more homebound customers turn to internet shopping.