Initial responses to a survey by the Bookseller show that anxiety about health and finances, stress with juggling childcare, uncertainty for the future and job security were frequent concerns among book trade staffers working through the coronavirus crisis, though many of the nearly 150 respondents said remote working had made their teams more focused and creative.
Among the respondents, 62% were from publishing, 19% booksellers, 6% agents, 3.5% authors, 2% distributors and 1% freelancers, plus 6% from other categories including scouts, recruiters, festival organizers and packagers.
One publisher said they were "terrified," with "limited sales to be had, in what was already proving a tough market," while an employee of Taylor & Francis felt "positive," with e-book sales doing well and "revenue protection clearly mapped out" by the company.
Support for booksellers has been mixed, according to the survey. One employee, who works for an independent, said they had been able to stop working before the lockdown "to protect a vulnerable family member" and were put "on full pay for at least two months." Another indie staff member said they were "worried but glad we have adapted to online selling."
A publisher expressed the need for "vocal support" and fundraising for Waterstones and WH Smith staff, noting that "it's shameful there hasn't been more support for our bookseller colleagues, who were working right up until public pressure--not pressure from the trade--pushed Daunt into closing. Many of these booksellers still aren't paid the living wage."
Several respondents suggested the crisis "could also help solve publishing's perennial diversity problem, particularly in terms of geographical diversity and disability. One respondent concluded, 'I'm also hoping there will be broader repercussions across the industry from everyone realizing you can actually work remotely; wouldn't it be nice if one of the silver linings were to make the publishing industry more inclusive,' " the Bookseller wrote.
Major French publishers "are making their staff part-time under new measures announced by the government to help companies survive the lockdown imposed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic," the Bookseller reported. Last Friday, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced that the two-week lockdown, which began on March 17, would be extended at least to April 15.
"Most houses have suspended the bulk of their activities," said Pierre Dutilleul, director of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat de l'Edition National, SNE). He added that publishers are maintaining their accounting, human resources and other vital services through teleworking, and most are taking up the government's March 17 offer to cover 84% of net salaries for personnel working part-time. Most, however, have halted book manufacturing, marketing and much of their distribution.
E-books are taking up some of the slack, the Bookseller wrote, noting that the French Eden Books platform, owned by Madrigall--parent company of Gallimard and Flammarion--Media Participations and other publishers "is reporting a 100% increase in sales from the usual level, Dutilleul said. Izneo, the comic book platform, is also flourishing with a series of promotions."
Actes Sud suspended activities for two weeks, effective March 19. CEO Françoise Nyssen said that some staff are teleworking, partly to "respond to our authors. Authors do not qualify for partial unemployment pay, so are particularly penalized."
She added that the determining factor for the company to resume work will be the reopening of bookshops and is in favor of classifying books as an essential item, allowing independent booksellers to resume trading. The Bookseller noted that French finance minister Bruno Lemaire "floated this idea recently. But the French Booksellers Association said indies should stay shut to protect the health of staff and customers, and that publishers should stop delivering to Amazon and supermarket groups."
Noting that many Goans had "already picked up the books on their to-read list from bookstores ahead of the lockdown, in anticipation of the government's move," the Times of India reported the Khalil Ahmad, owner of Broadway Bookstore in St. Inez, said there had been a sudden surge in purchase of books from his stores.
"It looked like people were aware of the lockdown," he recalled. "Three to four days before curfew was announced, there was a sudden spikle in footfalls. People purchased a lot of books, mostly children's books and light reading, mainly fiction. Some foreigners who live in Goa bought books worth Rs 8,000 to 9,000 [about $105-$120] each, which is not something we see on a regular day."
In Australia, Potts Point Bookshop, Sydney, checked in on Facebook with "a few updates on how we're going to be doing things here for the next little while. Our doors are shut (partially) but you can still come and visit us to pick up some books if you know what you're looking for. We're still happy to offer up suggestions if you're unsure but we encourage everyone to be as speedy as possible in their decision making so that there's no congestion at the front door.
"Our website has all of our stock listed, you can browse everything there and place a click and collect order or phone ahead and set aside any books you'd like. We can also take payment online or over the phone. If you're quarantined and can't leave your house we are happy to bring books to you; simply browse our online store and select QUARANTINE at the checkout and we will arrange delivery to you free of charge.... We hope everyone is staying safe and well and we will keep updating you all if and when things change with us."
Readings, which has seven shops in and near Melbourne, has "really only closed its doors on Christmas day (apart from the time when Carlton's sewer burst)"--until yesterday, when it closed to the public at the end of the day, although it continues business online.
Readings has been "inundated with orders," owner Mark Rubbo said in an e-mail to customers, and is trying to fill them in a timely manner. Because the "supply of overseas items has mostly stopped... we can only supply items that are available in our shops or in stock with local publishers."
Saying "we are definitely coming back," Rubbo noted that "apart from our profit distributions to staff and our donations to the Readings Foundation, we have kept most of our profits in the business. This means we are able meet all our leave obligations to our staff, as well as extending an extra two weeks paid leave to them all."