How the Book Biz Is Coping with the Coronavirus (

The publishing industry scrambled last week to keep pace with the rapidly changing developments brought on by the deepening new coronavirus crisis. With the virus strengthening its grip on the New York City metropolitan area, show organizer ReedPop moved BookExpo, Unbound, and BookCon from their original dates of May 27–31 to July 22–26, when they will be held at the Javits Center in New York. “We are committed to running a show for this industry and the fans this year,” said event manager Jenny Martin in a statement. “What will that show look like? We are not exactly sure yet. But we believe we will be on the other side of [the coronavirus outbreak] and ready to get together and do what we love to do: discover, discuss, celebrate and connect through books. If the situation changes again between now and July, we will change along with it.”

The announcement of the change of dates came shortly after Penguin Random House said it would not attend the show, citing guidance from New York City and New York State “to substantially limit the size of events and number of participants in public gatherings” in the wake of the continued spread of the coronavirus. PRH said it regretted making the decision but added that the company “will be exploring additional ways to connect with booksellers, librarians, and readers going forward.”

A major concern for publishers that arose last week is their business with Amazon. The online giant said it is focusing on restocking household staples, medical supplies, and other high-demand products. As a result, Amazon sent a letter to suppliers, including most publishers, indicating that from roughly March 17 through April 5, they should expect to see both reduced purchase orders and extended delivery windows for existing purchase orders.

The news from Amazon came just as some of the country’s best-known independent bookstores announced temporary closures, among them the McNally Jackson, Posman Books, Powell’s, the Strand, and Tattered Cover. Many stores were seeing spikes in online sales and were hoping to reopen before too long, but firm timetables were difficult to establish. Powell’s announced it expected its five stores to be closed for at least eight weeks. To help laid-off booksellers cope, the American Booksellers Association donated $100,000 to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, and HarperCollins contributed $50,000 to the organization, whose mandate is to provide financial aid to booksellers in need.
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