TEHRAN (Iran News) – Amazon denied reports that it is no longer accepting new deliveries of books to its warehouses while prioritizing essential goods amid the COVID-19 outbreak, as major cutbacks at the UK’s two main book wholesalers have begun to prevent bookshops up and down the country from acquiring new stock.
Amid reports in publications such as The Times that the online retail giant was turning away book deliveries to focus on household essentials and medical supplies, Amazon told The Guardian that it is still accepting new stock from publishers, theguardian.com reported.
However, with several major publishers moving some scheduled releases to later in the year, confusion reigns among readers about which books will be available during the lockdown. Increased demand for postal services has led to delays in delivery, with Waterstones – which closed all its stores on March 23 – announcing that online orders would face “slight delays”.
On Monday and Tuesday respectively, wholesalers Gardners and Bertrams announced they were temporarily suspending all orders, making it more difficult for bookshops, particularly independents, to get fresh stock until restrictions lift. While publishers are continuing to supply large booksellers such as Amazon, Waterstones, and supermarkets, independents are generally supplied by the wholesalers because of their small orders, meaning they now have only existing stock.
Late on Thursday, Gardners reopened, allowing bookshops to order single copies of books for customers.
“At this stage, we have a very limited offer and have not opened our business up in anywhere near the capacity it was. In fact, much of it is very much closed,” said Gardners’s Nigel Wyman. “With a cut-down service and a few staff we can maintain a safe working environment that adheres to the current government guidelines regarding social distancing.”
Although Nielsen Book Scan, the UK’s official book sales monitor, says that sales were up six percent in the week to March 21, they are believed to have since fallen as shops closed. Official data is no longer available from Nielsen, for the first time in its 22-year history, “due to the unprecedented temporary closure of bookshops in the UK”, it said.
Publishers are pushing back their big new titles, such as Raynor Winn’s follow-up to ‘The Salt Path’ and Ruth Jones’s second novel, to the autumn and even to 2021. This is an attempt to prevent them from getting lost in a world without bookshops.
Many indie booksellers, who had been getting inventive in order to deliver books on bikes and even skateboards, have begun to warn customers they will no longer be able to fulfill orders. At Warwick Books, owners Mog and Pauline Harris announced that the wholesalers’ closure made things extremely difficult. “We are really sad to even think we have to do this, but as a small independent we have to think long-term and no books to sell is a tricky pickle for a bookshop,” they wrote.
Gardners’ change of heart was “good, but most orders we have received are for multiple books so it isn’t very practical”, they added. While publishers are responding well to direct orders, “like us their systems aren’t set up for small single-line orders so I imagine it won’t be sustainable”.
Louise Ashmore at Read bookshop in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire, said the closure of wholesalers was a blow, but that Gardners’s offer was a “huge help”, and “we’ve been up until the early hours of the morning processing orders while we can”.
Edinburgh’s Portobello Bookshop has closed both its physical and online shop, despite Gardners’s offer. “Unfortunately under the new system the postage and admin costs are so high that it’s not going to be affordable for us to bring staff out of furlough without passing those costs on to customers, which isn’t something we’d be comfortable doing,” said bookseller Jack Clark.
Indies are still doing their best to be inventive despite the impact on their supply. The Barrister in Wonderland in Retford, Nottinghamshire has launched a PayItForward scheme, where customers can buy a book for those in their community who would benefit from one in the future, while at The Book Shop in Lee-on-the-Solent, owner Sarah Veal has come up with the idea of “Positivity Boxes”. At £10 each, they contain “a good book, choccy treat, a hot chocolate sachet, a bookmark, and a card from the sender”. More than 80 have been purchased and sent out in the last two weeks to people self-isolating, “just to let them know that they are being thought of”, said Veal.
“There is no better moment than now to have a bookseller in your life and sign up for a subscription,” urged Nicky Dunne at Mayfair bookseller Heywood Hill. “Two mottoes, too: ‘Carpe librum’ and ‘chins up’.”
- source : Iran Daily, Irannews