Coronavirus: European Federation Backs Booksellers; Hay Reaches £79,000

In News by Porter Anderson

As bookshops are shuttered in many parts of the world in the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the booksellers’ federation asks for help, as Wales’ Hay Festival continues raising funds to cover its losses.

At a bookstore in the Noordeinde district of The Hague in the Netherlands, a photo made prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19. Image – iStockphoto: Wallpaper-101

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Bookstores’ ‘Already Fragile Economic Situation’
In a statement issued this morning (March 24) from its headquarters in Brussels, the European and International Booksellers Federation (EIBF) is calling on governments to support and protect booksellers as the coronavirus COVID-19’s progress shuts down stores and shops.

The full text of the EIBF’s message, as released to news media, reads:

“As COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic continues to spread around the world, many countries are imposing drastic measures to try and contain it. In countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Germany, and Belgium, all stores considered as non-essential, bookstores among them, have been required to close. This prescribed closure of bookstores is a threat to financial sustainability of many businesses in the bookselling industry.

“Health and safety of all people and communities is top priority for all, but we need to recognize the impact prolonged closure will have on small- and medium-sized businesses that rely on physical presence of customers. Booksellers offer an important contribution to communities and society as a whole from educational, cultural, and financial point of view.

“Many booksellers are going above and beyond to sustain their services to customers–who are currently self-isolating at their homes–but they face numerous challenges. Many bookstores that our members represent have limited, or no, infrastructure to support online sales in these unprecedented times. In addition, while offering home deliveries, they are exposing themselves to higher risks.

“Closure of brick and mortar bookstores compromises their profitability and puts under question their, already fragile economic situation. Local bookstores greatly contribute to communities and districts, offering needed services, providing job opportunities, and contributing safe meeting spaces that online retailers can’t provide. Ensuring these businesses can overcome these uncertain times is critical to continuous sustainable development of local communities.

“All booksellers are anxiously waiting to reopen their stores, but they are not willing to compromise their health or the health of their customers and communities they enrich. This puts them at a disadvantage compared to giant online retailers, whose businesses are operating with minimal adjustments.

“We are appealing to governments worldwide to remember the importance of books in our society, and the positive impact bookstores have on local communities, and provide support and financial aid to protect the bookselling industry.

“It is critical we stand together in these uncertain times, as only by supporting each other we will come out stronger in the end.”

Of course, it’s important to note that in cases like these, the bookselling industry cannot expect to get the sort of response it might like, although that would certainly be gratifying. Most of the world’s governments are working at some level and to some degree to handle the onslaught of the virus, itself. And this can be expected to make it extremely hard for those governments to respond to the appeals they are receiving not just from publishing and books-related businesses but from virtually all industry elements.

For example, in our story on today’s desperate request for help from the Italian publishing community, the alarm is clearly accurate, acute, dramatic, and correct. And yet what can the Association of Italian Publishers (Associazione Italiana Editori, AIE) hope that Rome will be able to do at this point? That’s not to say that these cries for help mustn’t be raised. But the publishing sector in most national markets–like other industries–will likely have to work to protect and then rebuild themselves. Few governments can do more than try to protect the public health at this point. And for some time, assistance is going to be very hard to come by for the creative enterprises and other not immediately essential to the medical emergency.

In addition, it’s important to remember that bookstores at times may have tried to stay open in ways that were seen as less than safe for their staffers’ and customers.

On Monday (March 23), in our editorial, we went over the outcry that may have influenced the decision of Waterstones’ and Blackwells’ managements to close their stores. Only hours after those closures went into effect, Boris Johnson announced his sharply stepped up distancing directives, shuttering retail outlets other than food stores and pharmacies.

In response to that editorial, we have had this tweet:

Hay Festival Fund Raiser Reaches £79,000

With its flagship Hay-on-Wye festival canceled because of the coronavirus crisis—its original dates were May 21 to 31—the nonprofit program has opened a £150,000 (US$176,653) fund-raising effort to cover its ticket income shortfall.

The Hay’s budget requires that 70 percent of its revenue be derived from those sales. And as ticket holders are refunded, that majority source of income has disappeared.

In a prepared statement, Hay co-founding director Peter Florence is quoted, saying, “As an organization we now face a stark reality. We have ten days to raise the funds we need to support us in the coming months and secure Hay Festival 2021 and a time when we can again celebrate together and tell stories of these times. Whatever you can spare will make a big difference. Every donation adds up.”

At this writing, Hay fans have responded with £79,104 (US$93,039), just over halfway to the appeal, which was instigated five days ago.

Organizers say that the planned series of international festivals is still intact, however, the Hay Festival Europa28 in Croatia looks threatened, with its dates set for June 3 to 5.

Other planned events may be more secure because of their spots on the calendar. They include:

  • Hay Festival Querétaro, Mexico (September)
  • Hay Forum Dallas, USA (September)
  • Hay Festival Segovia, Spain (September)
  • Hay Festival Arequipa, Peru (November)
  • Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye Winter Weekend, Wales (November 27 to 29)
  • Hay Festival Medellín, Colombia (January 2021)
  • Hay Festival Cartagena de Indias, Colombia (January 2021)
  • Hay Festival Hay-on-Wye, Wales (May 2021)

At this point, the last successfully staged Hay Festival event was its debut Abu Dhabi effort in February.

If You’d Like To Alert Us to Your Plans and Updates

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More from Publishing Perspectives the coronavirus outbreak is here. More from us on bookselling is here, and more on the Hay Festival programs is here.

Download your free copy of our Spring Magazine here

In our Spring 2020 Magazine, Publishing Perspectives has interviewed publishers, industry experts, entrepreneurs, and authors to present a look at the book business for the coming year. Inside this issue of Publishing Perspectives Magazine, you’ll find articles and resources including:

  • Publishing and the coronavirus
  • Richard Charkin’s view of key industry challenges
  • China’s growing comic book market
  • Brussels Book Fair debuts its rights center
  • Eksmo CEO Evgeny Kapyev on Russia’s book market
  • Matchmaking for publishers and producers in Latin America
  • Book market data
  • A world tour of copyright developments
  • Translation sales resulting from Norway’s Frankfurter Buchmesse guest of honor program
  • An AI startup creating interactive stories
  • An interview with author Andrew Keen

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About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.