Update, 12:30 p.m., March 21:
Pegasus Book Exchange in West Seattle is open through Sunday, March 22 for “one last big stock-up” said manager Emma Epps; it will then close for browsers but remain open for curbside pickup or delivery within West Seattle ($5 delivery fee, waived for orders over $25). University Book Store is now offering curbside pickup in its U District location. And Half Price Books, which has seven locations in the Seattle area, has closed to walk-in customers but is available for online/phone orders, shipping and curbside pickup.
Update, 4:25 p.m. March 20:
For those who read via audiobooks, Libro.fm shares the profits with the independent bookstore of your choice.
We’re all looking at potentially having quite a lot of reading time this spring, due to all those large-group events that we aren’t going to anymore. To fill that void, many of Seattle’s independent bookstores are finding ways to get books to their customers while still maintaining social distance. If you need a book or two, and want to support a local small business during a tough time, read on!
Open or closed?
Though few (if any) Seattle-area bookstores have completely shut down, many are no longer available for in-person browsing. Elliott Bay Book Co. announced Sunday night that its store was closing to the public, though phone and online sales will continue to be available daily. Likewise, Phinney Books and Madison Books owner Tom Nissley said his two stores would move to “restaurant rules” starting Wednesday, March 18: no browsing, but open for pickup and delivery. Ada’s Technical Books has closed to all but online customers; Paper Boat Booksellers is closed but available to customers by phone and email on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Secret Garden Books in Ballard has closed but is available for customer pickup and web/phone/email orders.
And, as of this writing, some have vowed to remain open for as long as public health guidelines allow, though often with shorter hours and with — natch — increased attention to sanitization and social distancing. Laurie Raisys, owner of Island Books on Mercer Island, said on Monday that “Our door is open, and we’ll stay until they tell us we have to shut it.” Raisys spoke to Slate magazine last week for a story called “Coronavirus Diaries: I Own a Bookstore. I Don’t Know How Long We Can Survive.” Since its publication, she and her staff have been kept busy with online orders, though in-person customers remain scarce.
Chris Jarmick, co-owner of Booktree in Kirkland, said he’s planning on locking the door of his small store if it accumulates eight customers at once, hanging a sign asking new visitors to wait a few minutes until someone leaves. (“This has not happened yet,” he noted.) Other stores will likewise carefully monitor traffic, though it might not be necessary: When I visited Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park on March 16, I was one of perhaps three in-store customers.
If you’re thinking of carefully venturing out to a bookstore, call before leaving; plans change rapidly these days.
From the store to your door
Among the bookstores currently offering free hand delivery within their neighborhoods are Phinney Books, Madison Books, Paper Boat Booksellers (West Seattle), Magnolia’s Bookstore, Island Books (Mercer Island), Brick & Mortar Books (Redmond; free delivery for orders of $25 or more), Queen Anne Book Co. and Edmonds Bookshop — just call and tell the bookseller what you want (or ask for a recommendation), pay with a credit card, and your chosen book(s) will soon appear at your door.
And many stores are also offering curbside service: i.e. order over the phone and the store will notify you when it’s ready, arranging for you to pick it up without having to leave your car. Call your favorite store and ask if this is an option.
Third Place Books, University Book Store, Elliott Bay Book Co. and Brick & Mortar Books ($25 orders and up) are offering free regular shipping through the end of March for orders placed online or via email/phone; Island Books offers free shipping anytime. Some local indies, including Page2Books, offer online service through bookshop.org, a new online store that supports independent bookstores nationwide.
Shopping from home — with a twist
Book Larder, the food-focused bookstore in Fremont, is closed to foot traffic but is offering something novel: virtual shopping trips, by appointment, in which a bookseller walks a customer through the store via FaceTime and helps them select just the right book. Many other stores have available booksellers happy to suggest recommendations over the phone; as always, call and ask.
Gifts that keep on giving
If you don’t need a book just now but want to support your local bookstore, consider buying a gift card; tuck it away for a rainy day. Many bookstore owners are suggesting this, said Raisys, “so that you ensure that they have something moving forward.” Some of her customers are buying gift cards to give books to those who don’t have the means to get them. “We just purchased a bunch of books with someone’s gift card to give to two or three retirement homes,” she said.
Or think long term and buy yourself a book subscription, in which selections are carefully chosen by booksellers. Ada’s Technical Books currently offers four subscription options: nonfiction science books, feminist science fiction, classic science fiction and young adult fiction. Each is $15/month plus tax and shipping.
And Phinney Books offers Phinney by Post, which gives subscribers a monthly paperback selected by the staff, along with an introductory note. Subscribers can choose the Full Plan (fiction and nonfiction alternating each month, $240), the True Plan (nonfiction, every other month, $130) or the Made-Up Plan (fiction, every other month, $130), which can be sent to anyone in the country. (Local subscribers can save $40 on the True Plan or $20 on the other plans by picking up in-person at the store.)
Be healthy, be safe, and be well-read. Courage.