July 2, 2020

Bookstores out west re-open . . . and re-close


It’s been terrifying to study the hockey stick-shaped graphs of Covid-19 spikes in places like Arizona and Texas, states that had closed-down insufficiently and have now re-opened too early.

Unfortunately, this has made a number of booksellers feel like yo-yos at the mercy of the yahoos governing their state’s responses.

As a recent survey that Publishers Weekly conducted in these hotspots shows, many stores well on their way to re-opening have already had to take a step (or two) back.

For instance, Scottsdale, AZ’s mystery mainstay The Poisoned Pen had only a short window of time spent re-opened. Lucky for them, the “your local bookstore, no matter where you live” ethos positioned them nicely to transition from in-store browsing, curbside pick up and shipping full time. And they were very quick on the pivot to video events.

Houston’s famed Brazo’s bookstore had about two weeks of allowing 5 customers in the store at a time before they had to retreat back to curbside service–though traffic (literally) remains high.

Meanwhile, online the children’s literature community is doing their part to keep this yo-yo from bouncing more than it has too, with a hashtag campaign raising awareness of the extreme effectiveness of masks in slowing the spread of Covid-19. There, authors are using #KidlitForMasks and #MasksSaveLives along with pictures of themselves, their books, or their illustrated characters wearing masks.

The sooner we mask up, the sooner we can browse. That’s the deal.



Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.