Thursday, March 19th, 2020

Interview with Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

Josh Christie of Print: A Bookstore

LibraryThing interviewed Josh Christie, co-owner, with Emily Russo, of Print: A Bookstore, in Portland, Maine about his bookstore and what book lovers can do for bookstores during this crisis.

Q: How has Print handled the Coronavirus?

On March 16th, we closed our doors to the public. We’re anticipating reopening on March 30th, though this could certainly change—our course of action will be determined by advice from state and national authorities.

While our doors are closed, we’ve shifted to online (printbookstore.com) and phone orders. We’re offering free nationwide shipping or local delivery for orders over $20, and curbside pickup for orders of any size. We’re also letting people know about their options for ebooks and audio books from Print, via Papertrell and Libro.fm.

We’re also using the temporary closure to tackle administrative and back-end tasks in the store, like updating our website and point-of-sale system, as well as deep cleaning and organization. There’s no lack of things to do, and we hope to keep our entire staff on for their regularly scheduled hours while we weather this crisis.

Q: How bad is this for indie bookstores like yours?

It’s hard to overstate just how hard this will hit independent bookstores. Most stores—even profitable ones—operate with precious little cash on hand, so any interruption in income makes available funds dry up quickly. With margins on books generally running about 5–10 percent less than other goods (and little opportunity to adjust prices, as they’re printed on the product), an already thin-margin business is about to get much tougher. And, since most don’t warehouse books of their own, any disruption to local or international supply chains could make getting books to customers difficult.

There’s also book signings and author events, which are impossible in a time of social distancing. Events aren’t a huge part of the bottom line for every store, but for many (including ours), they’re significant. We’ve already cancelled everything through the start of April, and if the need to socially distance extends to the summer these will only grow.

Which is to say, I don’t think it will be any easy time for any business of any size, but some of the structural and economic realities of bookselling make it particularly fraught.

We’ve already seen stories about stores laying off or furloughing staff, and we’re undoubtedly at the start of this rather than the end. For the majority of stores, I have to guess the best case scenario is a big impact on income and a reduction of payroll. For many, I fear this will result in closures.

Q: How can LibraryThing members help Print and other indies?

The most direct way to support bookstores like ours is to shop with us. The most significant impact would be made by buying gift certificates, which immediately injects cash into our businesses. However, any purchases are a huge help. It’s also still a great time to preorder books, which don’t provide income now but guarantees future business.

And, while it’s not a form of financial support, following our stores on social media and signing up for our newsletters will help us get the word out about how we’re navigating this crisis. Similarly, even if you aren’t in a position to buy from us, boosting and promoting us to others will get more people through our (virtual) doors.

We always end with two questions.

Q: Tell us about your home library. What’s in it, and how is it organized?

I live alone in a pretty small one-bedroom apartment, but there are multiple bookcases and bookshelves in each room (including a few I added to the walls myself when I ran out of space). I’ve been a buyer for bookstores for almost a decade, so I’ve got a pretty even split of finished books and bound manuscripts/galleys. My tastes tend toward narrative nonfiction, largely contemporary, and most of what I have reflects that. I’ve also written a few books, including one on the history of beer in Maine, so I’ve got a lot of older books about beer, brewing, and Prohibition.

Organizationally, it’s a bit of a mess. 7 or 8 years ago I scanned every book I owned into my library on LibraryThing, but at this point I’ll admit I don’t have a great sense of what I have or where it is. I could lie and say it’s meant to inspire browsing and seeing what strikes my fancy, but it’s really just laziness.

Q: What are you reading now?

As always, I have a few half-finished books scattered around me. There’s You Never Forget Your First (>Print | LibraryThing), the first significant biography of George Washington from a woman, by Alexis Coe. It reminds me quite a bit of Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra (Print | LibraryThing) and Emily Wilson’s Odyssey (Print | LibraryThing) in how it recontextualizes history we’ve heard a million times. And then there’s Michele Harper’s The Beauty in Breaking (Print | LibraryThing), a memoir from a female African American emergency room physician being published by Riverhead Books this summer. I’m also a person who actually reads cookbooks from front to back (I love food writing, and recipes with a voice), and Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy (Print | LibraryThing)  is on my nightstand. Finally, Homie by Danez Smith (Print | LibraryThing). Smith has been a favorite of mine since his 2015 collection Black Movie (Print | LibraryThing), and I’ve been slowly devouring his new collection over the last few weeks.

 

Labels: bookstores

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