Indie bookstores around the country are finalizing their plans for Independent Bookstore Day on August 29. The coronavirus forced the celebration to be postponed from its original April 25 date, resulting in it bumping up against this year’s back-to-school rush. Add in a hurricane on the Gulf Coast and wildfires in California made many bookstores do IBD differently this year. Most stores are holding hybrid IBD celebrations, and one is holding a completely virtual IBD, due to its employees all being in quarantine.
Left Bank Books in St. Louis is temporarily closed to customers after an employee tested positive a few days ago; the entire staff is working remotely for the next two weeks while the store is sanitized. According to a letter posted on the store’s website and on social media by co-owner Jarek Steele, Left Bank is doing “an online version of IBD: smaller and deconstructed, much like our store at the moment.”
The store owners decided to move online despite an offer from Holland Saltsman of the Novel Neighbor, an indie located nearby that usually competes with Left Bank, to sell Left Bank’s IBD merchandise alongside the store’s own merchandise. Not only that, but Saltsman also offered to give Left Bank the proceeds from sales of Novel Neighbor's IBD merchandise. “I teared up, thanked her and told her that she should reap the benefits of her own significant labor,” Steele wrote. "We'll be ok. I'm sharing this story because it highlights the best of us. It highlights what we as a community can be to each other. It highlights what we can be as, well, neighbors.”
Among the stores holding downscaled IBD celebrations. is Schuler Books in Okemos and Grand Rapids, Mich. It is planning on “giveaways via email and social media, and exclusive items for sale in the stores,” marketing coordinator Alana Haley said. “That’s it! We didn’t want to drive more people to the stores as we are currently at the level we can comfortably and safely handle. No in-store giveaways to limit transaction time and handling.”
To prevent customers from crowding her store, and also in a bid to jumpstart customers thinking about the holidays, Linda Kass, the owner of Gramercy Books in the Columbus suburb of Bexley, Ohio, is not holding Independent Bookstore Day. Instead, the store began celebrating Independent Bookstore Week on August 23, with gift cards being sold at a discount through August 29.
According to Stephanie Hochschild, the owner of the Book Stall in Winnetka, Ill., while Chicagoland booksellers in previous years have had success coordinated promotions, this year participation in IBD will vary widely across the indie landscape because many stores are operating on different schedules. Some stores are open to foot traffic, but others, like hers, are not or have limited hours. The Book Stall simply will emphasize to its customers on IBD “that we are local and a dedicated member of the community,” she wrote in an email. “Sharing the highs and the lows, celebrating special occasions and the holidays together.”
The Book Stall in Winnetka, Ill. is not open to foot traffic as was reported in an earlier version of this story and has been corrected.