Independent bookstores are trying a variety of sales and marketing tactics to stay afloat during the new coronavirus outbreak, but Washington D.C.’s Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe is claiming first spot in using an unexpected source for book delivery in the nation’s capital. Starting this week, Kramerbook is using Postmates, an app largely used for food delivery, to get books in the hands of readers in the D.C. area.
“Several months ago, we looked into the idea of delivering books before we ever ended up living in a time of a pandemic,” said Leah Frelinghuysen, a spokeperson for the store. “We had a cafe menu with Postmates and thought it made a lot of sense to add books to our delivery offerings. We launched a pilot program during the 2019 holiday season because we thought it would be a good way for people to purchase gifts easily. Given the volume of online shopping, why not consider books as great gifts for friends and family?”
The pilot was a success and also came at the right time. When the DuPont Circle mainstay joined other D.C. businesses in closing to the public, an online menu of books was ready to unveil alongside the store’s food options. Users can use the app to select books from the menu or call the store to ask if a title is in stock. If it is in stock but not on the menu, customers can add it as an off-menu item by entering the price.
The bookstore’s Postmates orders are fulfilled directly by the store for orders within a 4.5 mile radius, and are otherwise handled by Bookshop.org, the newly launched indie online vendor, which has had high sales volume since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. In addition to the delivery service, the store is also doing promotions, including placing a free “mystery galley” in each order and offering a $25 gift card with any orders over $100.
Sales have been brisk since the launch of the app, according to Frelinghuysen. “Amazon is on a delay and unreliable these days as everyone knows,” she said. “The satisfaction of being able to receive a book in under an hour while supporting your local, beloved, indie bookstore makes everyone a winner in this.”