The Booksellers Association's annual conference and the Gardners Trade Show, which had previously been scheduled for September 13-14, have been postponed until November 1-2 due to the Covid-19 crisis. The BA and Gardners will continue to monitor government guidelines on public gatherings and social distancing over the coming weeks and months.
BA managing director Meryl Halls said: "This has been an incredibly challenging time for all retailers, and booksellers have shown great resilience and creativity in the face of adversity. In these fast-moving times, we hope that moving the BA Conference in November will allow booksellers from across the country to come together to network, share their experiences and celebrate their collective hard work."
Nigel Wyman, head of business development at Gardners, commented: "We have been working closely with the Booksellers Association during this unsettling time to create a realistic time scale for the Gardners Trade Show and the BA conference. We all felt moving it to November was a sensible option bearing in the mind the current climate. We are really looking forward to putting on a great trade show for all the booksellers who attend and giving the publishers the audience they so need right now."
Last Thursday, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa announced a sector-by-sector plan gradually to lift lockdown measures imposed six weeks ago to combat the coronavirus outbreak. Reuters reported that beginning yesterday, May 4, the three-phase plan opens up "different sectors of the economy every 15 days, starting with small neighborhood shops, hairdressers, car dealerships and bookshops.... If the outbreak continues to slow, the plan's second phase will launch on May 18, opening up bigger stores, restaurants, museums and coffee shops but at reduced capacity."
"We know that as we open up various activities, the risk of transmission will increase," Costa said. "I will never be ashamed to take a step back if necessary for the safety of the Portuguese."
Lisbon's Bookshop Bivar set its phased re-opening to begin today, May 5, noting: "While the easing of commercial restrictions allows us to once again make our books available, the re-opening does present challenges as to how we can do business in the short-term." The bookseller's hygiene and precautions include asking customers to call and reserve a time to browse/pick out books, while drop-in customers "will be asked to wait for a time slot in which there are no other individuals in the store"; and customers must wear a mask at all times (brought from home) while in the shop, though disinfectant gel will be provided.
"We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause, but these are not normal times," Bookshop Bivar wrote. "Also, we will be monitoring ongoing DSG guidelines and will adjust as restrictions are eased. Thank you in advance for your patronage, we look forward to meeting your reading needs. Good Health & Stay Safe."
Under Alert Level 4, which began last Friday in South Africa, "stationery and educational books" are among the new items that may be sold as the country's Covid-19 lockdown is relaxed a bit. Business Insider SA cautioned, however, that the "wording was not broadened to include all books, despite determined lobbying, including efforts to have books declared vital enough that their sale would be permitted even if SA moves back to Level 5." Nonetheless, some stores have vowed to sell everything that was on their shelves before the initial hard lockdown, while others say the vast majority of their books will be on sale.
Exclusive Books is opening all its stores in the country, excluding those at airports. CEO Grattan Kirk said 36 outlets will open, with shelves about 80% full. "We are of the view, and have confirmed with all parties including the SA Booksellers Association and publishers, that books are, in terms of the definition of 'stationery and educational books,' in fact educational in nature," he said, adding that some non-book items will be removed, but as branches work through their books to see which are not educational, they will "probably err towards argument that every book irrespective of what it is" could be educational.
Mervyn Sloman, owner of the Book Lounge in Cape Town, said his shop will sell all book categories: "There isn't a recognized category within the trade of something called 'educational books'.... Fiction builds empathy. If I read a book written by somebody featuring characters completely different to me, with different life experiences, that enables me to understand a little bit of that context in which people are living. It enables me to build empathy for people other than myself." He does not expect problems with the authorities. "I am not preparing for confrontation with the police," he said. "We're not expecting trouble. We're not breaking the law."
The Dutch government opted for what it called an "intelligent lockdown" to curb the coronavirus pandemic, advising people to stay home and to keep 1.5 meters (five feet) of social distance, The International Business Times reported.
"I think it would be very difficult to stay at home all day. I'm very happy with the opportunities we have, even if they are limited," said Marijn de Koeijer, owner of Boekhandel Douwes, a few minutes walk from the central railway station in the Hague, seat of the Dutch government.
He noted the government won the "support of the population" with its measures as they are "easier to defend and explain to the people," adding that business is now about half of normal volume, compared to 70%-80% down at the start of the novel coronavirus crisis. "Every book we sell counts," he said.
In Rwanda, "proprietors of bookshops are offering convenient options during this lockdown period for people to find mental sanctuary," Taarifa reported. Mutesi Gasana, managing director of Arise Bookshop, delivers books to homes for adults and children. The store's online platform allows parents to place textbook orders for their children, and the bookseller focuses on readers in the capital Kigali as well as the countryside.
"Bookstores in Rwanda are not so many, but even those that are available are located in Kigali, yet books should be accessed like groceries because of our belief in the power of books, we have been looking for solutions to make books available and accessible with low costs... this is the solution," she said. "Arise education has always looked for solutions that enhance reading promotion and creating book accessibility.... We are at their services, plus multitudes of readers, novels and motivational. In this time of stay at home, people need books, we deliver at their homes. We are playing our humble part. I hope people will continue embracing our noble service.