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One of the world’s most famous independent bookshops – Shakespeare & Company in Paris, France – has closed, along with scores of bookshops across Europe, as governments continue the shut-down to counter the spread of Covid-19.  A note on Shakespeare & Company’s website reads: ‘In accordance with measures announced by the French government to limit the spread of COVID-19, the bookshop and café will be closed until further notice. We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops. Until then stay at home, stay safe, and read books.’

In Brussels, Belgium, the European and International Booksellers Federation issued a strong statement calling for governments to protect and support bookshops.  It said: ‘As COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the world, many countries are imposing drastic measures to try and contain it. In countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Belgium, all stores considered as non-essential, bookstores among them, have been required to close. This prescribed closure of bookstores is a threat to the financial sustainability of many businesses in the bookselling industry.

‘Health and safety of all people and communities is top priority for all, but we need to recognize the impact prolonged closure will have on small- and medium-sized businesses that rely on physical presence of customers. Booksellers offer an important contribution to communities and society as a whole from educational, cultural, and financial point of view….

‘We are appealing to governments worldwide to remember the importance of books in our society, and the positive impact bookstores have on local communities, and provide support and financial aid to protect the bookselling industry.

‘It is critical we stand together in these uncertain times, as only by supporting each other we will come out stronger in the end.’

At the time of writing, bookshops in Australia can continue to trade.

Australian Booksellers Association CEO Robbie Egan said he was waiting for clarification on whether state guidelines would include a specific ruling on retailers such as bookshops, but that he was drafting a letter to request an exemption for bookshops in the event that state governments decide that bookshops come under the term ‘non-essential services’.

Of course, there is a knock-on effect for publishers all over the world as they are having a sales channel removed.  In the UK, where the Waterstone and Blackwell chains have both closed, publisher Pan Macmillan has said it is reviewing forward publishing.  Other publishers have already delayed publication of lead titles, such as David Mitchell’s new novel Utopia Avenue (Sceptre) and Us Three by Ruth Jones (Transworld).

Pan Macmillan MD Anthony Forbes Watson said: “The situation is obviously dire and will inevitably worsen considerably before it improves, and we don’t know when that improvement will come. Our team is demonstrating a typically positive approach and professionalism, and has adapted seamlessly to working remotely.

“We continue to print and publish our books in all the ways we can and I’m hugely grateful to our printers, our distributors and our publishing teams for their fortitude and commitment. We will continue to communicate as conditions change. We are grateful to all our stakeholders for their great and continuing support.”