Sunday, May 10, 2020

Is It Essential For The Book World To Re-Open Now?

      COME IN WE'RE OPEN Business Sign store hours yes we ...

When state governments started shutting things down a few months ago, and now with many of them slowly starting to re-open this month, they all referenced a term, “essential workers,” that has yet to be defined. But we do know that the book industry has not been deemed as essential, which is a shame.

One can make the argument that we are all essential, for our world needs everyone, from car dealers, tattoo artists and painters to malls, parks, schools, and movie theaters, but others would point only to those who supply a life-death service as essential – from EMTs, cops, and firefighters to medical personnel, supermarkets, and pharmacies. Still, there is a lot of gray area with who gets defined as essential vs non-essential.

But I am here to argue that all of those connected to the creation, production, selling, marketing, and loaning of books are essential. In my world, books are essential, thus anyone connected to them is essential.

Why is a store that sells lottery tickets allowed to stay open, but not a bookstore?

Why is a liquor store open, but a library is closed?

Why is some donut shop essential, but not a book printer?

We know the answer. It’s about politics, addictions, and just the way things are. People need their booze or they will go nuts, so liquor stores are open for business. Gun shops too. And places that sell fast food. Of course, if enough places don’t close, how is this a lock down at all? And if we are to close something, it’s going to be places where crowds linger, thus bookstores and libraries are shut down. Still, it seems unfair. The world is lonely when we don’t have access to books. The world has gone dark.

The hardest hit industries from corona are the ones that we love the most – restaurants, travel, books, concerts, theaters, sports – but no one has an easy answer or a guarantee about when or how to safely re-open these industries. 

Until there is a cure, better testing, or a vaccine, we will be on edge in how we go about our living. Are we able to absorb what the army calls "collateral damage" or are we simply going to cocoon and hibernate for well over a year? So what risks are we willing to make to ensure that our liberal arts survive and thrive? What level of collateral damage are we willing to incur so that bookstores, libraries, and book publishers can reopen?

I guess the good news is that some parts of the publishing ecosystem can thrive in isolation. Writers have no excuse – they can now write all that they want and don’t have to go anywhere or ask anyone’s permission to write. In some twisted way, the pandemic provides a golden opportunity for writers to generate massive amounts of content and bring them the chance to work at their craft in a way they never ever had.

But they also need motivation and inspiration and right now their writing environment is stale and closed off from what they would otherwise experience. Plus, writers are unable to market like they normally would – public appearances and paid speaking engagements are non-existent right now. Further, these writers can pile up the manuscripts but publishers right now have a backlog of delayed books to publish with no open stores to sell existing ones.

We are nearing two months of pandemic-caused shutdowns in New York and I have reached the breaking point and epiphany that it is time to open things up. This may seem counter to those who would say: How can we go back to normal when people are dying and we don’t have a working vaccine, cure, or better survey and trace testing – or even a full reserve of PPE?

Because living life, one of quality, is more important than living in a long-term lock down.

Life — and death — may just be part of a game of cost-benefit analysis. What is the ROI to saving your life? How do we measure the quality of life? We do this math all of the time, whether we realize it or not. We do this with government, business, and household budgets. We do this with wars, crime, product ability, and flu season. What price are we willing to pay to achieve or avoid a result?

How about with books, free speech, and the support of writers, libraries, teachers, and bookstores?

I don't take corona lightly. Over 80,000 Americans have lost their lives to it -- and America has bankrupted its immediate future over fighting it. I personally know people who have had it -- and of people who lost their loved ones to it. Lots of precautions need to be taken right now, but I also know that we need to get back to focusing on living. It won't be like life used to be, but we have to move towards recapturing a world that we knew and enjoyed, even if we are not fully ready to shake hands, hug others, and enjoy full social intimacy. For now, I would settle on seeing a bookstore open or a restaurant with outdoor seating at half its seating capacity. I would like to watch baseball on TV if they can play it safely in empty stadiums.I want to be able to return to complaining that my coffee from Starbucks was not made perfectly rather then see shuttered stores.

Corona capitulation forces us to look at the values that underlie our actions, systems, and governments. What do we see when we look in the mirror now?

Some people may sound like draft-day GMs in a sports rotisserie league... trading lives and making decisions that will impact millions for years to come. It is not easy to make decisions that impact the country. Sure we want to be safe. Life is precious. But living like we used to is the ultimate value that we treasure and seem to want to pursue, at least some form of it.

What will be permanently changed or significantly altered as a result of the corona carnage— financially, physically, mentally, philosophically, and legally?  We came back form AIDS, 9/11, the Great Recession, Gulf Wars, and natural disasters. It is time for our recovery from corona.

I want bookstores to reopen. I want libraries to reopen. Museums too. Social distance. Wipe books and tables down. Patrons wear masks and wash hands. Do it. 

Books are essential and bookstores and libraries are essential to the book world. Book publishers and printers also need to reopen, at least some of them, even part time, at 50% of capacity. 

A life without books and without the experience of community with those books, is not one that I cherish or find value in. Sure we can shut down for a little while, which we have, but we can make sacrifices now so that we can do this safely and effectively. 

The book world needs to be re-opened. Today.


Birth Of A Blog
Nine years ago -- May 13, 2011 -- I launched my award-winning blog. Here is the very first post:

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2020. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.

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