The world has been turned upside down for indie booksellers: their traditional business models do not apply when it comes to promoting and selling books during a pandemic that has shut down the nation. But, if there’s one characteristic that indie booksellers share, it’s got to be adaptability. Booksellers have long been used to nimble pivots when it comes to doing business—although now they must maintain social distancing with their customers in an industry in which human interaction plays such an essential role. Below are some images of booksellers and bookstores captured this past week, as some states in America's Heartland began relaxing restrictions on "nonessential" businesses, while others continue to maintain tightly-enforced lockdowns.
On Monday, Bob Dobrow, owner of Zenith Bookstore in Duluth, Minn., hands off a bag of books to a customer. It was the first day since March 25 that bookstores in Minnesota were allowed to offer curbisde pickups.
On Tuesday, bookseller Alex George celebrated the publication day of his latest novel, The Paris Hours, inside an empty Skylark Bookshop in Columbia, Mo. Bookstore manager Carrie Koepke said of the occasion: "While we have feelings about missing a 'normal' launch, there is some joy in being able to take over the study table upstairs and not worry about being in the way of customers."
Bookseller Nathan McDowell wears a mask while showing off a few of his favorite indie press reads at Two Dollar Radio Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, the bookstore division of indie press Two Dollar Radio.
Raven Book Store owner Danny Caine stands next to his book delivery car in Lawrence, Kans. Caine bought the new car topper sign once he realized that "delivery would become a semi-permanent part of our business model" due to the pandemic. Three Raven employees deliver 50-75 books on average each day. "That ticks out to around 3,000 miles total," Caine says, "And I've covered about 1,000 of that, delivering books to around 750 houses myself."
Anderson’s Bookshop in the Chicago suburb of LaGrange, Ill., has rebranded its “Blind Date” mystery book selections: henceforth, the wrapped books for adventurous customers who don't mind surprises will be known as “Quarantine Reads.” Assistant manager Shabeeh Syed, who conceived of Quarantine Reads, says that they started selling immediately after she put them in the window.
Madison Street Books in Chicago launched a weekly Zoom video conference a few weeks ago, featuring special guests in conversation with store personnel, called the "Mad Street Mixer." Last week's event, "Mad Street Mixer: Middle Grade,” featured (from top l.): Clare Vanderpool, Newbery Medalist for Moon Over Manifest; store owner Mary Mollman; Keir Graff, author of The Phantom Tower; and Mary Winn Heider, author of The Mortification of Fovea Munson.
Packages are ready for both shipping and curbside pick up at Excelsior Bay Books in suburban Minneapolis. Owner Ann Woodbeck, who bought the store less than six months ago, says that online sales are up 650%.
One Excelsior Bay Books customer asked for their purchases to be left on a bench outside the store. Note the handwritten sign in the store window with a number to call for those who want to buy one of the puzzles on display.