Bookstores Across America, Vol. Three: A Roundup of Ways to Support Indie Bookstores
As an organization that recognizes the power of the written word to transform the world, PEN America knows how important bookstores are for all of us as hubs of literary, civic, and community life. With independent bookstores all around the country forced to shut their doors due to the global pandemic, we reached out to booksellers in PEN Across America chapter cities and beyond to ask them how readers can support their favorite stores while sheltering in place. We’ll continue updating this page as we hear back from more bookstores, and if you’d like your local store to be included in this roundup, please email email@example.com.
The Seminary Co-op Bookstore
The Seminary Co-op Bookstore houses scholarly titles, diverse books, and independently published books. While their doors are closed, readers can support the store by placing orders online, following along on social media, and donating to the bookstore’s COVID-19 Relief Fund.
Social: @SeminaryCoop and @57thstreetbooks on Twitter, @semcoop and @57thStreetBooks on Facebook, @seminarycoopbookstores and @57thstreetbooks on Instagram
New York City
Books Are Magic (Brooklyn)
Books Are Magic is taking orders online and moving many of their events online to digital platforms including Zoom, Instagram Live, Q&As on our blog, and weekend storytimes on social media. Readers wanting to help booksellers directly can also donate to the Save Indie Bookstores campaign started by the ABA and BINC, and shop at places like Libro.fm and Bookshop.org that support indie bookstores.
Social: @booksaremagicbk on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab (Brooklyn)
Stories is a Brooklyn bookshop selling children’s books, but it’s much more. There are author’s readings for children—sometimes two in a day—workshops in art and music, and classes like “Chess or 3-Year-Olds, Beginning and Advanced,” “Animation for 9-12-Year-Olds,” and “Middle School Book Group.” Stories has become a beloved destination for Brooklyn kids and parents. Now, they are shipping books for all ages from their webshop, and they are holding their graphic novel workshop and chess classes through Zoom!
Social: @storiesbk on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Book Club Bar (Manhattan)
Book Club Bar is shipping books, coloring books, and puzzles nationally. They are also selling gift cards that can be redeemed at a later date for any book or cafe item. In addition, they are shipping care packages that include a book of your choice, MUD coffee, and a literary-themed candle. Follow Book Club Bar on their social platforms to stay engaged and receive updates.
Social: @bookclubbar on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Word Up (Manhattan)
While Word Up’s storefront and in-person events will continue to be on hiatus until further notice, you can buy books (including digital audiobooks and e-books) on their website, make a tax-deductible donation, or join as a member and gain some extra perks. Word Up has started a fundraiser for their local mail carriers and are planning fundraisers with other local groups. Word Up also wants to reminds all New Yorkers to fill out the once-in-a-decade census and to stay up-to-date with their online programming by signing up for their newsletter and following their social accounts. You can also support Word Up by contributing to their GoFundMe.
Social: @wordupbooks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Astoria Bookshop (Queens)
While Astoria Bookshop’s staff members, many of whom have high-risk family members, are not able to safely fill orders now, they are encouraging readers to order gift cards, preorder books that come out later this year, and order books to hold for whenever they are able to reopen. Their weekly children’s storytime has migrated to Instagram Live on Thursdays at 11am, and they are also working on their first virtual author event for Instagram Live. Readers who are unable to financially place an order can provide support by following along on social media and rating Astoria Bookshop on Google, Yelp, or Facebook.
Social: @astoriabookshop on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Every Thing Goes Book Cafe (Staten Island)
While Every Thing Goes Book Cafe is unable to offer books for sale at the moment, they are making plans to get ready for their eventual reopening by processing new intakes, organizing their storage spaces, redoing their backyard garden, deep-cleaning their store, and reflecting on their priorities and future direction. They look forward to sharing their love of books and community in the future.
Social: @etg.bookcafe on Facebook
Book Soup is accepting online orders for shipping only at bookshop.org/shop/BookSoup. They also receive a portion of sales from Libro.fm audiobooks, MyMustRead ebooks, and Corkcicle products. Via their Facebook and website, Book Soup said: “As an independent bookstore we remain committed to the free exchange of ideas and culture, now more than ever really.” Be sure to engage with Book Soup on social media and watch for announcements about virtual author events.
Social: @booksoup on Instagram and Twitter; @booksoupbookstore on Facebook
Skylight Books in Los Angeles is closed, although you can still order books from their website. They have reconfigured the website so that new orders for books will be automatically sent to and filled by their largest book wholesaler, Ingram. Store Manager Steven Salardino said recently, “Every day we are humbled and our hearts explode when we see new Instagram posts from book lovers and writers promoting Skylight Books and other independent bookstores. Even with the doors closed, we can feel the back-and-forth gravity of gratitude through the online orders of books, memberships, and gift cards.”
Social: @skylightbooks on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr
Vroman’s is Southern California’s oldest and largest independent bookstore. They are accepting online orders through their website as well as through their shop on Bookshop.org. They say, “Crisis or not, our mission remains the same: to keep you engaged and connected to the world, and to foster community. We may be isolated temporarily, but that doesn’t mean we’re alone!” Be sure to follow Vroman’s on social media or sign up for their newsletter, and watch for announcements about virtual author events and for Story Time With Mr. Steve.
Social: @vromansbookstore on Facebook and Instagram, @vromans on Twitter
City of Asylum Bookstore
City of Asylum Bookstore is temporarily online only. All sales from the store support the nonprofit City of Asylum, which provides long-term sanctuary residencies and medical benefits, social and legal services, translation services, and more to writers who have been exiled under threat of persecution and their families. The bookstore specializes in translations and underrepresented voices, but all books in print can be ordered from its website.
Online readings and concerts: alphabetcity.org/show
Social: @cityofasylumbooks on Facebook and Instagram, @cityofasylumbks on Twitter
Solid State Books
Solid State Books provides the neighborhood with a vital intellectual and social hub. Co-owners Jake Cumsky-Whitlock and Scott Abel said that the current moment reminds them of their vital role in the community, as a gathering place, event space, cultural exchange, and general respite from the often oppressive outside world. While they can’t provide a physical place to convene, they remain optimistic that with the help of the D.C. community, they will be able to reopen soon. They encourage patrons to buy audiobooks from Lirbo.fm; purchase gift cards and use their online store for home delivery; and subscribe to their newsletters and follow them on social.
Social: @solidstatedc on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram