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As the Covid-19 pandemic continues its grip on the world with devastating consequences for the bookselling and publishing ecosystem, there are more calls for support for bookshops from the leaders of industry bodies.
A joint statement from Maria Pallante, president and CEO of the Association of American Publishers (AAP); Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild; and Alison Hill, CEO of the American Booksellers Association said: ‘Sadly, after a decade of recovery and growth that affirmed the importance of reading, writing, and publishing, bookstores are suddenly facing a moment of monumental crisis at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some instances, these beloved institutions, which mean so much to so many communities, face the very real possibility that they will never open their doors again.
“We cannot let this happen because we need bookstores now more than ever. As award-winning poet and writer Jen Campbell wrote in her book The Bookshop Book, ‘Bookshops are dreams built of wood and paper. They are time travel and escape and knowledge and power. They are, simply put, the best of places.’
“We are therefore asking for your help so save these best of places. Please visit your community bookstores online or find them at Indiebound.org.” ….Everybody wins when bookstores succeed.”
In the UK, Faber CEO Stephen Page said in an interview with the BBC that booksellers should be among the first retailers to open when the lockdown is relaxed. He described bookshops as “central to culture” and said that their closure had reduced print sales across the industry by 60 to 70%. He talked about the important role bookshops play in the UK saying “art and culture is central to our understanding of what is going on right now”.
Booksellers have now begun to reopen in Italy, Germany and New Zealand, but there is a long way to go before normality returns. In Germany, the trade body Börsenverein welcomed the decision with CEO Alexander Skipis describing it as a necessary step in the right direction. But he warned that further government aid will be needed to absorb the medium and long-term consequences of the coronavirus crisis in Germany. According to the Börsenverein, the book industry as a whole stands to lose about half a billion euros per month while stores are closed. Latest figures published by the trade paper buchreport together with Media Control show that brick-and-mortar booksellers have lost on average between two thirds and three quarters of their weekly sales.
For booksellers around the globe, it will be a long journey back to normality.