How Sheffield's book specialists are keeping people reading during the lockdown

Booksellers in Sheffield are leading efforts to make sure people can cope with the effects of social distancing and self-isolation during the Covid-19 outbreak – by supplying plenty to occupy readers’ time.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 3:53 pm
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 3:54 pm

Shops have turned to deliveries, while the publisher And Other Stories – which has had to close its office at the Central Library and shift to home-working – is sending out extra titles to its subscribers because of the Government’s strict anti-coronavirus rules requiring individuals to spend much of the day indoors.

“We are just working hard to keep the boat afloat,” an update to the publisher's supporters said.

And Other Stories, which has more than 1,000 active subscribers who receive books by post, specialises in translated and international literary fiction and non-fiction with a roster of authors including Yuri Herrera and Deborah Levy.

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“We aim to continue to publish all the books we’ve lined up for this year, and work hard to prepare the books for next year. We know sales will be low and cash tight. Subscribers are about to get one big mailout: our April publication, Barn 8, and the next subscriber book, June’s Wretchedness.”

Independent bookshops and publishers, they said, face an ‘existential crisis’ in 2020 – often they have high fixed costs, such as premises to run and salaries to pay, but very small margins and reserves.

“We’ve already heard of bookshops that have seen no option but to close for now and let staff go temporarily. Other bookshops remain open, at least for deliveries. So please get in touch with your local – open, even if non-contact open – bookshop to order physical copies.”

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The And Other Stories team - pictured before lockdown - packing books to send to subscribers.

In Sheffield, La Biblioteka, which is normally based in the Kommune food hall, and Rhyme and Reason on Ecclesall Road are fulfilling online and phone purchases, and the Porter Book Shop, Next Chapter, and Kelham Island Books and Music are taking orders too.

“Worldwide, lots of bookshops are currently offering free local delivery, and some offer to post books,” said And Other Stories. “Just give them a call or email.”

The publisher is donating 20 per cent of the price of new subscriptions to independent bookshops, and plans to hold ‘virtual’ author events by uploading short readings online.

It has also urged people to carry on finding ‘joy’ in their lives, despite the severe disruption caused by the pandemic.

And Other Stories is sending extra books to subscribers to see them through the period of social distancing and self-isolation.

“Try to block out the noise and make time for it every day – be it in the form of copying out a poem to send in a letter, taking time to relax with a book, or a video call with a loved one over a glass of wine.”

Because of a surge in demand for household goods and medical supplies, Amazon has deprioritised orders of books – the product the online giant was originally set up to sell – in the US and Europe, allotting them much longer delivery times.

David Granville, of Kelham Island Books and Music. Picture: Andrew Roe
Richard Welsh of Rhyme and Reason on Ecclesall Road.