Communities lose personality as local bookstore sales plummet

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Eliazar Parra Cardenas | Flickr

Arianne Gonzalez, Arts & Style Editor

The Strand Book Store’s plea for help highlights the struggle that bookstores all over the country are facing. As COVID-19 continues to ravage small businesses, indie bookstores need help more than ever in order to survive.

It has been a struggle for indie bookstores and small businesses all over the country.

“In July, an American Booksellers Association survey suggested that 20% of independent bookstores were at risk of closing. Allison Hill, the CEO of the association, said that number could now be higher, with more than one store closing every week, on average, since the pandemic began,” Business Insider reported.

Indie bookstores have shifted their business models by making up the loss of physical sales with online orders and curbside pick-ups, all the while keeping stores safe and employees stocked with personal protective equipment, or PPE. Even so, they still continue to host events and workshops completely online for their community.

That is the charm of independent bookstores. Each individual store provides something that their respective community wants or needs.

Need an event space for your birthday? A bookstore can be it. Need to grab a quick lunch while browsing for a good read? A bookstore has you covered. Heck, if you want a glass of wine to go with your book, The Lit Bar has your back.

Bookstores before COVID-19 were social spots and literary havens for anyone who entered. Each store created its own alluring atmosphere that makes people want to just be surrounded by a wealth of physical books.

Only at indie stores can be found personalized curations, book recommendations based on individuals’ genre of choice, rare prints that have gone out of print or events to support local authors who have chosen their community bookshop to host their readings.

Yet, despite book sales being up 6% according to the NPD BookScan, most of these purchases were not made through local stores. Rather, online retailers have seen most of this revenue. Amazon’s sales are up 60% since the pandemic.

The country needs to save its local book institutions. Online retail can’t be the only thing relied upon.

Without them, a community loses its social space. Without them, there is a gap in the community’s local economy as there would be a deficit in jobs and tax revenue that they provide as a local business.

Not to mention, it’s necessary to avoid having one corporation monopolize all book sales in order to protect readers, publishers and authors alike.

An independent bookstore enriches a community. Without it and the services it provides, there becomes a literary and socio-economic hole that cannot ever be filled by online sellers alone.