There’s not a business in America that’s managed to remain wholly untouched by the coronavirus pandemic (except maybe Zoom), but the publishing industry has been hit particularly hard: with bookstores shuttering and literary festivals around the world being called off, it’s difficult to chart a precise path forward for the future of books—especially as we approach summer, typically a boom season for beach reads and blockbusters.
That said, not all the news is bad: Book sales are surging during lockdown as those in isolation seek an escape reading, and Bookshop—an online book marketplace designed to support independent bookstores that launched in January—has slowly found its footing, emerging as a viable alternative to Amazon.
Portland’s iconic Powell’s Bookshop, which was forced to lay off staff in mid-March, was able to rehire 100 workers based on the strength of online sales. “We’re still adapting to being a fully e-commerce business,” Powell’s owner and CEO Emily Powell told Vogue, adding, “We’ve always felt that our job is, to quote my grandfather, to ‘connect the writer’s hand with the reader’s ear’ and not let our own ego or identity get caught in between. So the question now is, how do we do that without a physical space?” Powell and her staff are using Facebook and Instagram to let authors connect directly with readers about their own reading lists, which, Powell said, “lets them get more intimate than how we would normally present them in-store.”