The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a serious toll on American business, with independent bookstores among the industries that have been especially hard hit. Many stores have laid off most of their staff, leaving booksellers unemployed and with uncertain futures.
So a group of laid-off booksellers in New York decided to open a virtual bookstore to help make ends meet. This week, The Bookstore at the End of the World debuted on Bookshop, an online retailer that benefits independent bookstores.
“[W]e’ve banded together to round out the flatness of staying home and share the best of what we know with the communities we’ve served,” the booksellers write. “You can continue to support your local NYC booksellers during COVID-19 by shopping with us below. 30% of the purchase price will go to sustain the talented booksellers who have lost their livelihoods due to the pandemic.”
To benefit from the program, out-of-work booksellers just need to contribute 10 or more book recommendations to the website. Several have done so, including Amanda Rivera, who recommends Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation and Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House, and Rebecca Gans, who’s urging people to read Sarah Rose Etter’s The Book of X and Heather Ann Thompson’s Blood in the Water.
Leading the project is Jeff Waxman, whose “hours dried up” at New York’s WORD bookstore, Publishers Weekly reports.
“It would be great if this became a movement,” Waxman told the magazine. “So many booksellers are out of work and feeling really vulnerable now, that every bit of money they can earn helps until they can get back to work full time and we come out the other side of this crisis.”
Michael Schaub is a Texas-based journalist and regular contributor to NPR.