Pandemic Diary Day 28
April 21, 2020
My friend Ted J. suggested I read The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft by George Gissing. I am not going to suggest you do the same, but the book did get me thinking about books. With a library of 2500 or more books, I am consumed by books. In fact, what ever money I am saving while being sheltered in place, is being completely blown on buying books. I do however, buy from small independently owned bookstores like Green Apple Books or The Green Arcade in San Francisco, so that assuages my guilt a tad. But I digress.
There are just so many great lines in Gissing’s book, such as: “To the end I shall be reading — and forgetting”. Isn’t that the truth. I wish I could access the file drawer in my brain that holds so many interesting things I have learned from books.
Serendipitously I was reading this book while writing this particular post, and it summed up exactly what I was feeling. “I have been reading one of those prognostic articles on international politics which every now and then appear in the reviews. Why I should so waste my time it would be hard to say.” I have no problem with these “prognostic” articles I love to read them, I just hate to write them.
Another lovely line from the book: “Ah! the books that one will never read again. They gave, delight, perchance something more; they left a perfume in the memory.” That gushingly flowery prose sums up so much.
Due to Covid-19, sales of fiction books in the United Kingdom rose by a third, while children’s educational books went up 234% .
Sadly in the United States, NPD BookScan, which tracks around 85% of physical sales, reported drops in children’s fiction and adult nonfiction books. There were gains however in nonfiction books for kids, especially workbooks purchased by parents with children sheltered in place while schools are closed. E-books are selling at about the pace they do during the holidays.
To counter that however, the American Booksellers Association has said online books sales have jumped over 240%. Audio bookstore Libro.fm and online Bookshop.org have seen their sales soar. Both of these digital stores collaborate with independent booksellers and return a share of the sales back to them.
I started buying used books when I stopped working and have done so for a very long time from Abe Books. The issue I have with them is that they are owned by Amazon, circumventing my attempt to make sure my dollars did not go into the pocket of the richest man in the world. That was until my cousin Pam turned me onto Thriftbooks.com a great resource for those that are watching their pennies.
The book world was facing problems even before this pandemic. While there has been a resurgence of independent booksellers in the last few years, only a third of independent bookstores were profitable prior to this crisis.
Then…the phenomenal New York Strand Book Store laid off 188 people, the majority of the bookstore’s staff, in the wake of Covid-19. Books & Books in Miami has closed its five bookstores and let go 90 employees. The center of the universe, Powell’s Book Store in Portland has closed all five of its locations and let go more that 360 of its unionized employees.
Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich. just crowdfunded $100,000 in working capital to ensure its survival. I was more than happy to pitch in a handful of dollars to help City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco in their crowdfunding effort to stay operational.
The Book Industry Charitable Foundation, a very, very small nonprofit that offers help to booksellers in need, has raised $700,000 since the start of the crisis and anticipates a minimum of one thousand booksellers needing at least $1,000 at the outset of the crisis, they didn’t mention what would happen going forward.
The one bright spot is that writers have a lot more time to write. Let us hope that there are not so many new book proposals that some of the great ones get lost on the desks of the still-standing and thus overwhelmed literary agents. Then there is the issue of publishers. Who will survive this?
One publisher that is too big to fail is the inventor of the Kindle and creator of un-agented self-publishing: Amazon. (sigh)
Books are not just bound paper, I have learned so much from books. I have friends that live inside books that escape off the page and fill my heart and my imagination with joy. I learn new words, I go around the world, all without leaving my couch.
I do not want to live in a world where Amazon is the only bookseller, squeezing profits, gouging authors and deciding for you, what you like.
So during this pandemic go online and buy a book, buy several books. Buy it from an independent bookseller. Buy it from a bookseller in your neighborhood. If you aren’t a reader, buy a gift for someone you know who is. Then when this is all over, walk into your local store and thank them for keeping up the good fight .Ever since the internet brought us ease in shopping, independent bookstores have been in peril, let’s not bury them quite yet.
My Horoscope for today: It’s hard to believe the best in people now, but keep the faith. Missteps are still fumbling attempts to do what’s right.
The NYT Crossword Puzzle: Easy, really fun with one answer being Dante
San Francisco weather: 59 degrees and windy
NYSE DOW opened at: 23365
Italian word of the day: contenuto (contents)
Spanish word of the day: costero (coastal)
OED word of the day: Bagel and in this case it means: To beat (an opponent) by a score of six games to love in a set.
Days under Shelter In Place: 39
Reading: The Great Influenza by John Barry
Reading Canto XXVIII, XXIX, XXX of Dante’s Inferno
My Black and White Picture of the Day
Something Silly From the Internet: · I’m so excited — — it’s time to take out the garbage. What should I wear?
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