BY BETH DEDMAN
With bookstores closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many booksellers have either lost their jobs or have lost hours.
To help with this financial strain, many NYC booksellers have banded together to raise money to supplement the incomes of the out-of-work retailers by donating 30% of the purchase price of all sales through Bookshop.org.
Jeff Waxman coordinated the booksellers for this project. He is an employee at the bookstore WORD in Greenpoint and had his hours severely cut because of state orders to limit the spread of the coronavirus, he said. He had also heard of many other bookstores struggling the same way and wondered what booksellers could do to help each other.
“As professional enthusiasts, we can work as uncompromising professionals the majority of the time, but that kind of integrity comes at a financial cost and most of us don’t have much to fall back on,” Waxman said. “In this new age of coronavirus, it’s harder and harder to do the work we love.”
Every bookseller that contributes 10 recommendations to the Bookstore at the End of the World list shares the money equally. Recommendations come from booksellers from McNally Jackson, WORD, the Strand, Book Culture and more.
Robyn Smith was an employee at the Strand until Saturday when the city ordered all non-essential businesses to close completely. She hopes that she will be rehired when the store is finally able to open again.
“This is my first time being laid off,” Smith said. “I’m not sure how I feel, really. I think we’re all feeling a little depressed at the moment. Americans are in a lose-lose situation that’s out of our control; if we open businesses and continue as normal, millions could die. If we maintain necessary restrictions, there will likely be a recession. I think that in maintaining restrictions, we’ve chosen the better option. Life is priceless.”
Smith is filing for unemployment but is excited to work on this project and share the books she loves with other people.
“It’s really admirable of Jeff to take us all in and put this together. I love his attitude of doing what ‘we booksellers could do to help each other.’”
The website has already raised more than $100,000.
“What booksellers do, here in New York and most everywhere else in the country, is more than just retail,” Waxman said. “It gets personal, both for us and for our customers, and the kind of people who make a point of shopping for print books from independent bookstores are the kind of people who understand what a tremendous opportunity they have, just walking through the door. Not only are our experiences and passions and knowledge there on tap, but your neighborhood bookstore is a place where the only real cost of entry is a shared love for the printed page and the wealth inside can be life-changing.”
More information about The Bookstore at the End of the World, and their list of recommended books, is available at https://bookshop.org/shop/nycbooksellers.