It is no secret that this holiday shopping season is a make-or-break period for many bookstores around the country. A survey by the American Booksellers Association in October revealed that, on average, one store closed each week this year. Recently, several bookstores like the Strand in New York City and Harvard Book Store in Boston took to social media to ask customers to come in and buy books to offset severe business declines caused by the pandemic. Other store owners have turned to crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe to raise money.
In April, City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco raised $467,000 in four days via GoFundMe and has brought in a total of $496,000. “When people donate money, it is very affirming,” said Elaine Katzenberg, publisher and CEO of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers. “It’s a gesture of solidarity and appreciation for what you do.” She added that the money was used to pay bills, salaries, and insurance for employees, as well as “to give us some space to figure out some things about our future.”
Other stores whose GoFundMe campaigns have met or exceeded their goals include Seminary Co-op in Chicago ($269,000); Marcus Book Stores in Oakland, Calif. ($261,000); Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich. ($128,000); The Bookstore in Lenox, Mass. ($123,000); Kitchen Arts & Letters in New York City ($105,000); Lake Forest Book Store in Lake Forest, Ill. ($67,000); and Bunch of Grapes in Vineyard Haven, Mass. ($63,000).
Asked whether it is better for people to buy books from stores or donate money to them, Pam French, executive director of the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (Binc), was agnostic: “Any support that someone wants to show to a bookstore, whether by buying books, donating money, or supporting a GoFundMe, is welcome.”
Below is a sample of some of the bookstores with ongoing GoFundMe campaigns:
● Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn., & Savoy Bookshop in Westerly, R.I., raised $41,000 of a $100,000 goal.
● Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Ill., raised $49,000 of a $100,000 goal.
● Diesel: A Bookstore in Los Angeles raised $159,000 of a $400,000 goal.
● Lake Forest Book Store in Lake Forest, Ill., raised $76,000 of a $100,000 goal.
● Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., raised $62,000 of a $100,000 goal.
● Page 2 Books in Seattle raised $5,000 of a $25,000 goal.
● Rainy Day Books in Fairway, Kans., raised $87,000 of a $280,000 goal.
● Spoonbill and Sugartown Booksellers in Brooklyn, N.Y., raised $105,000 of a $150,000 goal.
● Source of Knowledge in Newark, N.J., raised $68,000 of a $1,000,000 goal.
● Talking Leaves... Books in Buffalo, N.Y., raised $78,000 raised of $300,000 goal.
● This Is a Bookstore & Bookbug in Kalamazoo, Mich., raised $22,000 of a $100,000 goal.
● Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore in Minneapolis, raised $179,000 of a $500,000 goal.
● Volumes Bookcafe in Chicago raised $39,000 of a $100,000 goal.
Libro.fm maintains a page with bookstores holding GoFundMe campaigns.
Update: Uncle Hugo's location was misidentified in an earlier version of this story and has been corrected. While "the Uncles"—Uncle Hugo's and its sister bookstore, Uncle Edgar's—were burned down during protests in Minneapolis following George Floyd's death, the owner, Don Blyly, is conducting a fundraising campaign to rebuild elsewhere.