Coronavirus in Austin: BookPeople back to selling books directly from website
Less than four weeks after shifting to the online Bookshop platform, Austin independent bookseller BookPeople has resumed sales through the store’s own website.
Bookshop, a consortium of booksellers positioned as an indie alternative to Amazon, was an ideal interim solution given the immediacy of shelter-in-place edicts that required BookPeople to close its store for safety, general manager Charley Rejsek says.
“We looked at Bookshop to give us some time,” she says. “Once the shelter-in-place order was issued and we got the store wrapped up ... we started looking at next steps.”
Long term, BookPeople needed a platform that could consistently offer more than the 30 percent of sales that Bookshop’s member stores receive, she says.
“Bookshop has been an amazing stop-gap for us,” she says. But “we started thinking about what we could do to keep the higher margin that we’re used to.”
Store employees meshed two of the store’s existing online capabilities to create a new system that allows BookPeople to fulfill book orders remotely through wholesaler Ingram.
Next up: Shifting more author appearances online. Before the virus triggered closures, BookPeople typically hosted more than 300 events each year, from author readings to book club meetings and children’s storytimes. Most events were canceled beginning in mid-March, but the store has slowly resumed hosting digital events, such as the April 7 launch of young-adult authors Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy’s novel “Sword in the Stars.” On Wednesday night, Austin writer Sarah Bird will interview author Mary Pauline Lowry about Lowry’s “The Roxy Letters” in a virtual event starting at 6 p.m. Follow @bookpeople in Instagram to stream the event.
“Most definitely that’s our next biggest pivot that we’re going to make, transitioning events to digital,” Rejsek says. “We’re completely aware that we had events every single day in the spring. It’s who we are and what we do. ... The goal is go completely digital.”
Events also drove book purchases, she notes, which is now lost revenue.
How other Austin-area independent bookstores have shifted operations:
Malvern Books, Austin, is selling online through Bookshop.
Lark and Owl Booksellers, Georgetown, is offering online sales of books and gifts via
larkandowlbooksellers.com, or by calling 512-688-5582.
Bookwoman, Austin, offers online ordering of books at ebookwoman.com, as well as customized themed surprise boxes of books, zines, and “stay home” goods such as puzzles or coloring gear. Call 512-472-2785 to order.
South Congress Books, Austin, is offering online sales of selected used, collectible and vintage books and paper ephemera from its stock at southcongressbooks.com. Contact them at 512-916-8882.