Even in our technology-driven world, nothing compares to the smell and feel of a physical book. And these quarantine days of COVID-19 are no exception.
But don’t wait days for Amazon to deliver. Local bookstores are still providing reading material while maintaining proper social distancing.
Although many retail businesses, including public libraries, are closed, Smith Family Bookstore, Tsunami Books and J. Michaels Books are providing customers with the option of picking up purchases and ramping up their online deliveries to meet customer needs while people are quarantined.
Evon Smith, owner of Smith Family Bookstore, says she has seen an increase of people wanting to read books, even if it isn’t a habit they’ve kept up with recently.
“We’ve had people calling for books they’ve read before and want to read again,” she says. “Which tells us, there is something about a physical book that is comforting right now.”
With increased social distancing measures in place, she says people have the option of choosing e-books. But Smith says physical books are not only comforting, but they provide a break from the constant screen time, whether that’s for kids or from adults working from home all day.
Although Smith Family has seen a drop in business, Smith says the bookstore is still doing what it can to provide for customers. In addition to offering pick up at the front door and curbside delivery, she says the staff still helps people find books to read.
Smith says some customers call and ask, “This is my budget, what does your staff recommend?” The staff then discusses their picks and bags up different books they think the customer would be interested in.
Overall, Smith says, it’s strange to see the store so empty, and she looks forward to the day when people can browse the shelves again. But for now, they are making it work.
Although downtown Eugene is empty, Jeremy Nissel of J. Michael’s Bookstore is still trying to get his books out to customers as well. His employees are being paid but not working to minimize their risk of contracting the virus. Nissel is working by himself to keep things running smoothly.
“I was nervous enough that I’m just working by myself,” Nissel says.
He’s at the shop most days, making deliveries to most customers within a five-mile radius and pulling together orders for those who want to pick them up.
Like other open bookstores, Tsunami Books has kept its normal hours and also provides curbside delivery and pick up. Owner Scott Landfield says at first he was sure his business would “go belly up.”
“After a day’s rest I got over that,” he says. “We have a really creative staff here, and we keep coming up with ideas.”
Tsunami had to cancel all of its upcoming events, including local writers giving talks and performances by local musicians, which are a part of the bookstore’s income. But Landfield says they are trying to take advantage of small business loans while brainstorming other possibilities to draw customers in.
One idea Landfield is looking into is scheduling individual appointments for browsing. He got the idea from Capitol Bookstore in Washington, D.C., which is letting customers peruse their stores with a reserved time slot.
Meanwhile, customers are still putting in big orders, he says, perhaps because of all the time they have to read and the recent selling of their stocks. Tsunami has sold a lot of rare books online, and the staff is working hard to put together their own picks of books for people to purchase in bundles for themselves or kids.
Tsunami has someone who will deliver books on a bike, if needed. Landfield is also delivering to select customers.
He adds that keeping the business open is a bit of a mission, but that it’s an ongoing process. Eugene is a healthy community, he says.
“Books are an essential service,” Landfield says. “And that’s why [Gov.] Kate Brown didn’t cross off the possibility of being in business.”
Smith Family Books is open 10 am to 5 pm Monday – Saturday, 541-343-4717; Tsunami Books is open 10 am to 7 pm Monday – Saturday and 10 am to 6 pm Sunday, 541-345-8986; J. Michaels Books is open 10 am to 5:30 pm Tuesday – Saturday, 541-342-2002.