How small bookstores are reimagining the retail landscape

Published: May. 6, 2020 at 2:58 PM EDT
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With coronavirus restrictions closing many bookstores, independent shops are looking for new ways to keep their businesses alive. Here's a look at how the pandemic is changing the way people buy books.

Magic City Books in Tulsa, Oklahoma, is empty. But there's still demand for the books on its shelves.

"That energy for books exists here in Tulsa, and we think it is everywhere," said Pat Cawiezell of Magic City Books.

According to the American Booksellers Association, overall book sales are down but online sales are increasing during this stay-at-home period.

"We know that we want bookstores around but there is no way to ignore the gutting of our industry as much as every other industry," said Lisa Lucas, the executive director of the National Book Foundation.

With book sales declining and stores closing due to COVID-19 restrictions, independent bookstores that rely on in-store browsing found themselves struggling to keep business alive.

Landmark Bookstore in Tennessee received a surprising boost after New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury asked her fans to preorder her newest book from the store.

San Francisco bookstore City Lights raised nearly half a million dollars through GoFundMe.

Back in Tulsa, Magic City Books is determined to keep people reading.

"We quickly kind of pivoted into these literary care packages and that has been a tremendous success. We've today shipped out nearly 300 of these care packages," Cawiezell said.

They've opened an online store through the website Bookshop and are continuing to hold literary programs, like a virtual chat with author John Grisham, with the hopes that a love for books will help them survive.

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