While book sales spiked during Covid lockdowns in the state of New York, not every independent bookstore reported similar sales figures. Positive sales figures could be attributed to an increase in readership during a time when most were stuck at home but with most purchases of books going online, readers tended to choose the easiest and cheapest option – dare we say it – Amazon.
Like many independent booksellers, New York’s Strand Bookstore turned to virtual meet-the-author events to keep its customers engaged, reported Business Insider in August. Despite the benefits of the format, Sabir Sultan, Events Director of the bookstore told Insider, “At the end of the day, virtual events are great but they lack the excitement of an in-person event.”
As the state reopens Mr Sultan has resumed planning in-house events with attendees required to provide proof of vaccination, but is also quick to point out that they remain flexible and are ready to pivot to virtual events should the need arise.
Such news suggests that in-house events are crucial to an independent bookseller’s sales strategy and the value of an in-store event cannot be underestimated because it allows customers to purchase a signed copy of a book and meet the author and fellow fans.
It seems the true challenge is how they can leverage on the reach a virtual event provides while creating a truly intimate experience that results in the same kinship we feel in a physical space, as well as, of course, purchases.
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