The World of Books Braces for a Newly Ominous Future

From The New York Times:

In these isolated times, many people are inside reading, but the book business, like others, is bracing for catastrophe. Major literary festivals and fairs around the world have been canceled. Public libraries have closed. Author tours, signings and bookstore appearances have been scrapped.

As the severity of the coronavirus outbreak continues to intensify, authors, publishers and booksellers are struggling to confront and limit the financial fallout. Many fear the worst is yet to come, including more store closures and potential disruptions to warehouse and distribution centers, as well as possible paper shortages and a decline in printing capacity.

“There’s no question we’re going to see a drop in sales,” said Dennis Johnson, co-publisher of the Brooklyn-based independent press Melville House, who has directed staff to work from home. “It’s unprecedented. Nobody knows what to do except hoard Purell.”

The Sydney Writers’ Festival, which typically draws an audience of 80,000 and was scheduled to begin on April 27, was called off this week, following cancellations of major book fairs in England, France, Germany and Italy. In the United States, The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Tucson Festival of Books, the Virginia Festival of the Book and The Believer Festival in Las Vegas were among the many shuttered events, which draw tens of thousands of readers and can be a critical sales venue for authors and publishers.

On Monday, PEN America announced that it was calling off its World Voices Festival, which was set to take place in early May in New York, with planned appearances by Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, Jenny Slate, Elif Shafak and others.

BookExpo, a pivotal annual trade show for publishers, booksellers and librarians, is currently still scheduled to take place at the end of May at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York, according to the event’s organizer, Reed Exhibitions. “We remain optimistic that we can take the appropriate measures to see ourselves on the other side of this by the end of May and carry on as planned,” BookExpo’s director said in a statement on its website. “That being said, we will continue to follow guidelines and precautions suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

. . . .

The potential long-term effects for book retailers are sobering. Many in the industry are worried that independent bookstores will be devastated as local and state officials mandate social distancing and order some businesses to temporarily close.

. . . .

Mitchell Kaplan, the founder of Books & Books, an independent chain in South Florida, said sales have fallen at the company’s stores and cafes, and author appearances have been canceled.

“The irony of all this is that what makes bookstores so potent, our ability to be community gathering places, has become our biggest liability,” he said.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Felix for the tip.

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