Coronavirus: Reading enjoys a lockdown renaissance – but small bookshops are still struggling

Derrick Santistevan

Whether it is fiction, criminal activity or the classics, reading is taking pleasure in a renaissance in lockdown.

The world’s most significant book event, the Hay Celebration, has actually amazed even its organisers after being required to go digital – and showing to be more popular than ever.

It generally generates around ₤30 m to the small Welsh town of Hay- on- Wye, hosting around 200,000 throughout the 10- day event.

Hay Celebration’s live occasions include a remarkable cast

The town had actually currently handed over for camping tents, catering and all the stuff required, so organisers had actually braced themselves for the worst when they needed to cancel the event.

But celebration director Peter Florence has, to his own awe, played a blinder.

“In a good year we get 280,000 tickets, and so far we’ve had 512,000 registrations from 69 countries. We are astonished,” he informed Sky News.

“What’s happened is that a new global audience has re-invented Hay, making something very special in the intimate and public sphere, so we’re slightly giddy about how exciting it is.”

While the majority of the home entertainment sector has actually suffered as music celebrations, performances, theatre shows and movie productions hang in the balance, nobody might have forecasted the celebration’s digital success.

Among the celebration’s live occasions boasts an all- star cast consisting of Vanessa Redgrave, Stephen Fry, Margaret Atwood, Benedict Cumberbatch and Monty Don.

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“You’d never get them all in one space and here they are on this extraordinary platform,” includes Mr Florence.

Historian Simon Schama spoke at the Hay Celebration Digital today from the convenience of his own home and appears unsurprised that books are having a minute in lockdown.

“You are travelling essentially. Reading is a state of freedom – the freedom of the mind, the freedom of the imagination, and there is no better cure to feeling nailed to the spot than reading,” he stated.

Waterstones has actually reported a 400% boost in online book sales week- on- week in lockdown, regardless of having actually closed its 280 branches.

Reading is a popular pastime throughout lockdown

But, as the book chain’s president James Daunt described on Sky News today, a complex course to resuming bookshops lies ahead.

“People will want to browse and pick up books… We’re just going to ask customers to put any books they don’t use on a trolley and we’ll wheel them away and quarantine them for 72 hours,” he stated.

But quarantining books isn’t a choice for the 890 independent books stores in the UK and Ireland who state they just do not have the storage space or stock offered.

The Booksellers Association stated that while 76% of bookshops continued to trade through the lockdown with online business, they have actually just seen 18% of the typical turnover – and just a 3rd anticipate to resume totally.

Hazel Broadfoot, the owner of Town Books in south London, states she has actually been required to adjust throughout lockdown by offering online with residents getting their buy from the store and paying through the glass.

Bookshops like hers are desperate to get their clients back through the doors.

Regional book shops are dealing with problems throughout lockdown

“We are considering whether to ask people to wear reusable gloves but we don’t want to add to the plastic problem,” Ms Broadfoot stated.

“We have got to limit the number of people we have in this space. It’s tiny… Perspex screens at the till, hand sanitiser at the door, a queue outside.”

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