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How Miami Independent Bookstores Are Fighting Back In 2020



For the past few years there have been reports that independent bookstores are struggling. Since Amazon transitioned from online marketplace to a powerhouse verb, where “amazon-ing” books (or any items) became the popular method of shopping, local businesses are on the slow decline. Then 2020 happened. It’s a strange conundrum, and presents a catch twenty-two. Yes, it’s a great thing that anyone anywhere in the world can order books through Amazon, arriving at lighting speed to your doorstep the next day. Yes, it’s a great thing that people in this apocalyptic phone addictive time still want to read (Gasp!) and Amazon deserves their kudos. And yes, online shopping has been a literal life saver during lockdown phases of the pandemic when many people couldn’t leave their homes safely. But the ease and accessibility of Amazon, coupled with brick and mortar store closures from the pandemic, have now hit independent bookstores at an urgent time.

THE FLIGHT BACK


Image courtesy of Dunbar Old Books


One independent bookstore owner has no fear against Amazon, and has had success pre-pandemic making book sales online. Mary Ann Talmage is the owner of Dunbar Old Books, specializing in old and rare books for over twenty five years in Miami. “We sell online and we have a lot of global sales.” Ms. Talmage doesn’t consider Amazon competition. “I don’t think about Amazon. They’re superficial. We are more in depth.” Now more than ever independent bookstores across the country have reached a critical point facing permanent closures. South Beaches’ iconic Books & Books location on Lincoln Road closed (sort of) permanently in June due to high rent prices, slower book sales, and pandemic shut downs. Currently that location remains open as a cafe. Still called Books & Books….but minus the books. (BYOB- bring your own book.)

Image courtesy of Books & Books

Books & Books’ location nestled in Coconut Grove is still open and still hanging on. “We take things day by day and solider on” says bookseller Katherine Wakefield. Ms.Wakefield commented that the tourist foot traffic during what is now considered high season for the area has been slower in comparison to other years. “We did have a family from England the other day which was nice to see.” Despite these setbacks however, Books & Books pivoted to creating a larger online presence. Known for their in person events with rousing notable authors, these events are now being broadcasted online. “It’s been great because we've been able to reach a larger audience.” Ms.Wakefield credited the American Booksellers Associations as a helpful ally in the fight to keep revenue strong.

CREATIVE MARKETING

Image courtesy of the American Booksellers Association


"October is The New December" was a month-long marketing initiative urging shoppers to buy now and not to wait until December for holiday shopping. The American Booksellers Association's website has a “marketing assets” section for independent bookstores to use freely and to circulate in their local areas. This marketing strategy will continue through the holiday season with "November is The New December," and "December is The New December." The message being, buy now if you can. Ms. Wakefield is looking forward to the weeks ahead, which is always an exciting time for Miami book lovers.


Image courtesy of Miami Book Fair

The Miami Book Fair is a yearly event which begins in the middle of November. This year the fair will be virtual with free online registration Typically, the fair draws hundreds and hundreds of bibliophiles, notable authors, poets, and publishing industry bigwigs for a week of events, panels, and discussions. Margaret Atwood, Mark Doty, Rumaan Alam, Ross Gay, Ann Patchett, Joy Harjo, Robert Haas, Lauren Groff, and Joyce Carol Oats will be in attendance. Oh, and Lenny Kravitz. The panel and events are the most diverse in recent years, and anyone can attend from the comfort of their home. This fair comes at an important time, reinforcing the values of literature, the community it creates, and why we love books in the first place. In the spirit of supporting your local Miami bookstores, here’s a quick list of a few top Miami centric works of literature to enjoy while we wait for our present reality to brighten up. If you are able to, please go to your local Miami bookstore or order online. For information about registration for the Miami Book Fair please visit the link below. Miami Book Fair Dunbar Old Books Books & Books American Booksellers Association

By Eden Herbstman