Small independent bookstores are fighting to stay alive in this age of pandemic and social distancing. You can help them survive.
Many bookshops in the Twin Cities are closing their doors to customers but remaining active online; others are offering free delivery and curbside service so customers don’t have to mingle.
The list of temporary closings is long and stunning and getting longer every day. Think about it: What will the world be without bookstores, even if just for a while?
Now closed are Moon Palace, Magers & Quinn, Wild Rumpus, Milkweed, Boneshaker, Irreverent Bookworm, SubText, Red Balloon and the Storied Owl in the Twin Cities, and Zenith in Duluth.
Others — Next Chapter, Birchbark Books, Chapter 2 and Eat My Words — are staying open, some with limited hours or special precautions. (Call ahead or check their website).
But open or closed, all of the stores have online shops where a reader can order books, audiobooks or e-books. Many are offering free or reduced shipping.
Watching these bookstores close overnight has been devastating.
Bookstores are not just places of commerce — they are community centers. They are friendly, warm places where people can browse and chat and sit a while and think.
Each one has a distinct personality; each one is curated slightly differently.
“We pride ourselves as being a place where people can come and meet each other and discuss books and ideas,” said David Enyeart, manager of Next Chapter Booksellers in St. Paul. “We’re very torn [about closing]. We are definitely mindful that we need to be responsible.”
Louise Erdrich, owner of Birchbark Books in Minneapolis, said in an e-mail to customers that her store is open but is “adapting our services so that we can best support our community.”
This includes hours by appointment only, to limit the number of people in the store at any one time. They are also planning online events, including Erdrich reading from her new novel, “The Night Watchman.”
Moon Palace Books in Minneapolis closed last Sunday. “I believe that closing was the best thing to do for our community and I absolutely plan to reopen,” said co-owner Angela Schwesnedl on Monday.
Milkweed Books in the Open Book Building in Minneapolis also closed.
“All events through the end of April have been postponed,” said manager Hans Weyandt. “I worry about our staff and the staff of other places. More than anything, we are a team and we will try to make it through this into a certainly different future.”
James and Mary Laurie Booksellers, an antiquarian bookshop in Minneapolis, will now be open by appointment only. “We opened our shop 45 years ago because we love the personal contact it allows with customers,” Mary Laurie said Monday. “We have bemoaned the internet for taking this away from us. In the face of this virus we have found that the internet is actually an ally.”
If you are stuck at home now — and aren’t we all? — you will need something to read. We cannot watch Netflix forever.
If you want to buy a book — physical, e-book or audiobook — you can purchase it through bookshop.org or through these bookstores’ websites. Please do.
Local booksellers can mail you a book just as easily as Amazon can. Buying books from local indies is a way to make sure these booksellers still get a paycheck during this awful time.
And it will help ensure that the stores can open their doors to us again when all of this is over.
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune’s senior editor for books.