Twenty percent of independent bookstores across the country are in danger of closing, according to a news release from the American Booksellers Association.
And the association has a plan to fight back.
Since the Covid-19 crisis began in March, one or more indie bookstores has closed every week. As ABA CEO Allison Hill wrote in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times last week, “COVID-19 will be listed as the cause of death, but the preexisting condition for many will be Amazon, whose packages have become ubiquitous in apartment building lobbies and on porches across the U.S.
“Amazon has been boxing out local bookstores and other small businesses all across the country, resulting in the loss of local jobs, local sales tax revenue, and a sense of neighborhood personality, community and tradition.”
Today marks the second day of Amazon’s Prime Day sales event, which the retailer projected would garner $10 billion in revenue. The booksellers’ group is standing up to the behemoth with a sassy “Boxed Out” campaign of its own: Storefronts are literally being covered in cardboard, stamped with slogans like “If you want Amazon to be the world’s only retailer, keep shopping there,” “Amazon, please leave the dystopia to George Orwell,” and ““Our Wi-Fi is free. Please don’t use it to make a $1.6 trillion company even richer.”
The cardboard books displayed on top of the boxes have titles like To Kill a Locally Owned Bookstore and Fear and Loathing Through Lost Wages. Signature installations have been placed at four bookstores in New York (McNally Jackson in Manhattan, plus Café con Libros, Community Bookstore, and Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn) as well as at Book Soup in West Hollywood, California, and Solid State in Washington, D.C.
Bookstores around the country are participating with posters, displays, and social media posts with the hashtag #boxedout. “We hand choose every book on our shelves so that your book selection is curated by real people, not a creepy algorithm,” tweeted Cream and Amber, a woman-owned bookstore in Hopkins, Minnesota.
We hand choose every book on our shelves so that your book selection is curated by real people, not a creepy algorithm. Please save our bookstores and #ShopIndie today. And tomorrow. And of course, the next day. #BoxedOut pic.twitter.com/dNpnc7MlLQ— Cream Amber (@creamandamber) October 14, 2020
“Boxed Out” was the brainchild of DCX Growth Accelerator, the agency behind the award-winning “Palessi” prank for Payless shoes—an imaginary designer, a luxury store, four-digit price tags—and regular $20 Payless shoes, that a number of people actually bought.
Marion Winik is a regular Kirkus contributor and author of The Big Book of the Dead.