The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the American economy is unprecedented and the businesses being hit the hardest are unfortunately also the smallest. Results for a recent poll taken by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and MetLife reveal that nearly one fourth of small businesses say they’re two months or less away from permanently shutting down while one in 10 said they were less than one month away from the same fate.
Non-essential businesses like small independent bookstores are in even more danger, since many of them lack the web presence necessary to seamlessly transition away from in-person only sales.
Pushing online sales and engaging with the virtual literary community are ways some our favorite bookstores are attempting to stay afloat during this period of economic uncertainty, but the fact the remains that most small, independent stores may never reopen again.
If you’re a booklover looking to support indie bookstores, the best way is to invest in books and tag the bookstore on social media. Times are tough, but next time you’re in the mood for a new book, consider purchasing online from these or other independent bookstores.
Stories Books & Café
Located just minutes from LA’s historic Dodger Stadium is Stories Books & Café. This eclectic bookstore offers a wide selection of books and up until the quarantine, served coffee and tea, beer and wine, and hosted regular readings and live performances.
Open since 2008, it has become an integral part of the neighborhood of Echo Park and although they’ve closed their doors for now, they have books for sale on their website. https://storiesla.com/
Other Books LA
Other Books LA is a bookstore and collaborative space in the neighborhood of Boyle Heights that carries new and used books, comics, and zines. Created with the goal of providing access to books in underserved areas, the store also highlights authors of color and serves as a space for book signings, readings and creative workshops.
As collaboration between Seite Books, an East LA bookshop and Kaya Press, a non-profit publisher of stories by Asian and Pacific Islander diasporic writers, Other Books is a both a literary hub and resource for the city’s creative community.
They are currently taking book orders via Instagram DM.
Just a few months ago, a trip to LA’s iconic Griffith Observatory might have included a visit to Skylight Books, a colorful local bookshop that up until recently kept its doors for more than 20 years.
The bookstore includes a storefront and an annex dedicated to the arts as well as a small theater next door. Special events and book clubs are part of the normal scene at Skylight, but now, live book readings can be heard via their bookstore podcast available on their site. They’re currently selling online and have a wide selection of novels, zines and e-books.
This beloved independent bookstore has a dedicated following of Manhattan-based bibliophiles. With two floors of books and a vibrant café, the store often welcomes visitors for live readings, but in light of the stay-at-home order, they have begun hosting virtual events listed on their monthly calendar.
In addition to an online selection of books in English and Spanish, they also offer stationary items and brand merchandise like stylish tote bags that feature illustrations of the bookstore’s shelves filled with books.
Berl’s Brooklyn Poetry Shop
In a city full of book lovers, there’s only one all-poetry bookstore and it’s located under the Manhattan Bridge, aka Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. Named after the shop’s co-founder Jared White’s late grandfather, Harmon “Berl” White, they curate a selection of small press books and chapbooks.
Unlike mainstream bookstores, Berl’s doesn’t carry a vast selection of authors but instead carries limited edition works that seldom get the recognition they deserve. The family-run poetry shop opened its doors in 2010 and although they are currently closed, they’re exploring shipping options.
Café Con Libros Press
Opened in 1997, closed in 2002, then reopened in 2018, this bookstore turned nonprofit located in downtown Pomona, Calif., is the creation of Adelaida “Adi” Bautista and Patricia “Pati” DeRobles, two Mexican American immigrants, first-generation college graduates and educators.
Café Con Libros began with a mission to provide greater access to books and a space to discover and celebrate stories by and about people of color. Over time, it grew to become a center for culture and community with its regular open-mic nights, writing workshops, clubs and other events.
They have books for sale online and pick up options are available.
Books & Books
Since opening in 1982, Books & Books has curated and expanded a collection of sought-after books on art, architecture, and photography. In contrast to Miami’s notoriously fast-paced lifestyle, the bookstore provides a calm, supportive environment for discussion and learning.
With a café managed by James Beard-award winning Chef Allen Susser and more than 60 monthly in-store events, Books & Books has become an integral part of the Miami’s cultural and literary scene.
To help keep their local community engaged during the quarantine, the bookstore launched a virtual series on their website featuring conversations with celebrated authors. The bookstore’s owner, Mitchell Kaplan has also premiered The Literary Life, a podcast where he candidly converses with members of the literary community.
The bookstore and its café are closed until further notice, but they are offering free shipping on books available on their site.
Deep Vellum Books
Vellum is a special type of parchment paper that is made from the skin of young calves.
The bookstore’s name, Deep Vellum, is inspired by their mission to uplift and support work by authors that deeply represent the true essence of their highly diverse community.
They believe their relationship to the local community goes beyond the sale of a book.
In response to the pandemic, the bookstore launched a phone hotline to connect readers with live booksellers for book recommendations and a friendly conversation. They also kicked off a livestream book club called a virtual “book cult.”
They closed in mid-March and have a vast selection of books online available for purchase.
City Lights Bookstore
Founded in 1953 by American poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti, City Lights is a historic bookstore and publisher in San Francisco that’s best known for publishing the critically acclaimed and controversial poem, Howl, by poet and Beat Generation writer, Allen Ginsberg.
With no means of generating income after the city’s shelter-in-place order, the bookstore turned to a GoFundMe campaign in the hopes of raising the funds necessary to stay in business. Within days, they exceeded their goal of $300,000 by more than $150,000, allowing them to stay afloat and plan for the future. While their doors remain closed, they have books available for purchase via their virtual storefront.
Bluestocking Books in San Diego is a small used bookstore in the area’s Hillcrest neighborhood. Their classic neon sign usually catches the attention of nearby pedestrians, but like other non-essential local businesses, they’ve recently had to close their doors to visitors.
During normal operations, readers are invited to bring in old books to trade for store credit or simply browse the store’s large selection of books for purchase. Now, purchases must be made via phone or online for curbside pick-up or home delivery only.