Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hurricane Harvey Book Toll Likely Exceeds One Million Volumes

The television images and news accounts of the devastation from Hurricane Harvey remind me of what unfolded after New Orleans' Hurricane Katrina, and of what I witnessed first-hand 25 years ago in South Florida with Hurricane Andrew.  My heart and prayers go out to those who contributed to the rescue and recovery effort. 

Estimates of 47 dead and 160 billion dollars in damages have been made by officials.  Some 600,000 cars may have been destroyed and at least 100,000 homes destroyed or rendered uninhabitable.  It’s a real mess, though thankfully the death toll appears far, far lower than the 1,833 from Katrina and similar to the 65 of Andrew, and 49 of Hurricane Irene in 2011. 

Just for some perspective, in 1998, Hurricane Mitch, which hit part of Florida but did its damage in the Caribbean Islands, killed over 19,000 people.

As we look at the economic and societal toll Harvey will make on Texas, I wonder: How many bookstores and libraries have been destroyed or forced to close?  How many books – in people’s homes, cars, offices, and business – were destroyed?  Could more than a million books have perished from the storm?

The Houston area will take years to rebuild and could come out of it a bit smaller but stronger for it.  All of the insurance money and government assistance can create a mini-boom to the local economy.  But the city will never be the same and it will never forget what it went through.  Despite the potential for Houston to renew itself, the nation’s fourth-largest city will confront growing pains as it seeks to figure out how to prosper knowing that it has no defense for a storm that can easily pierce its borders any time.

Books, made of paper, are especially vulnerable to water damage from any kind of storm.  If each of the destroyed homes had 10 books, apiece, that’s a million books gone.  The graveyard of books, is likely bigger.  Some homes had dozens or hundreds of books in them.

Could there be a mini-boom for the book world as some of these lost books get replaced?  It’s not exactly how the book industry planned to grow, but nevertheless, we could see an increase in book sales down the road.

Right now displaced people need housing and to have their immediate survival needs met -- food, clothing, and access to healthcare, school, and employment.  It’s a rough road ahead over there.  Books may not be on their minds right now.  

But when they do turn their attention back to books, the industry will be there to support them with titles that help nurture the soul, comfort the depressed, and inspire those looking to move onward. There will be books to escape to with fantastic stories and there will be tomes that give historical perspectives and how-to’s on how a city recovers from a disaster.  

Books will always comfort and enlighten us and in times of any disaster they will help to begin the healing process.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2017©. Born and raised in Brooklyn, now resides in Westchester. Named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby 

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