November 19, 2018

California wildfires hit the book business


The fires burning in California have taken a devastating amount of human lives, damaged property, and once again brought out our ugly enthusiasm for the modern slavery that is the American prison system.

And, of course, our little book world is not insulated from the ravages of these fires.

Last week, industry news hub Shelf Awareness looked into some of the damage, reporting:

We’ve had several booksellers reach out to us who are strategizing ways to send books and other assistance up north,” Northern California Independent Booksellers Association administrator Ann Seaton told Bookselling This Week. “We’re collecting information and working on this outreach.” She also noted, as an example, that Readers’ Books in Sonoma has been keeping a jar on the counter to collect donations for the California Fire Foundation, which helps victims of the fires.

Pam French, executive director of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, said Binc has been calling stores in the affected areas. “The good news is that the ‘Binc grapevine’ has been fabulous and bookstores are letting other stores know about Binc, and we’re using social media, too,” said French. “Like the hurricanes, we anticipate it will take booksellers several weeks to access their situation and then get in touch with Binc.

I wonder if your first thought, like mine, upon reading that was: there is a Book Industry Charitable Foundation?

Indeed there is, and our knowledge of its glorious existence may be one of the only positives to come out of our planet doing its best impression of Mercury. For now, the Binc walks this warming Earth to lend,

assistance to bookstore employees who have a demonstrated financial need arising from severe hardship and/or emergency circumstances. Since its inception [in 1996], the organization has provided more than $6 million in financial assistance and scholarships to more than 7,300 families. Support for the Foundation’s programs and services come from all sectors of the book industry.

So they are real, and they are rising to the occasion by mobilizing fund raisers and relief efforts for bookstore employees/proprietors who have lost their homes or businesses–and in some tragic cases, both.

Shelf Awareness notes: “For booksellers affected by the fires who need immediate assistance, Binc will take disaster applications for individuals and stores over the phone or by e-mail. The organization can be contacted by calling 866-733-9064 or by e-mailing or texting to [email protected].”

And perhaps you can support your local bookseller, and get in the know, by buying one of these books about our wildfire epidemic.





Ryan Harrington is a senior editor at Melville House.