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Independent bookshops try to stay afloat during COVID-19 pandemic

Magic City Books in Tulsa, Oklahoma is empty, but there's still demand for the books on its...
Magic City Books in Tulsa, Oklahoma is empty, but there's still demand for the books on its shelves. (Photo: Magic City Books)(WCTV)
Published: May. 6, 2020 at 2:20 PM EDT
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By: Danya Bacchus | CBS News

May 6, 2020

(CBS) — With coronavirus restrictions closing many bookstores, the independent bookshops are looking for ways to keep their business alive.

Magic City Books in Tulsa, Oklahoma is empty, but there's still demand for the books on its shelves.

"That energy exists here in Tulsa, and we think it is everywhere," Pat Cawiezell of Magic City Books said.

According to the American Bookseller's Assocaition, overall book sales are down, but online sales are increasing during this stay at home period.

Lisa Lucas is the executive director of the National Book Foundation.

"We know that we want bookstores around but there is no way to ignore the gutting of our industry as much as every other industry," she said.

With book sales declining and stores closing because of COVID-19 restrictions, independent bookstores that rely on in store browsing found themselves struggling to keep business alive.

"We went from doing the business we were doing to doing nothing," a shop owner said.

Landmark Bookstore in Tennessee received a surprising boost after New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury asked her fans to pre-order her newest book from the store. San Francisco bookstore City Lights raised nearly $500,000 through a GoFundMe.

Back in Tulsa, Magic City Books is determined to keep people reading.

"We quickly kind of pivoted into these literary care packages and that has been a tremendous success," Cawiezell said. "We've today shipped out nearly 300 of these care package."

They've opened an online store through the website bookshop, and are continuing to hold literary programs. They even had a virtual author chat with John Grisham, with the hopes that a love for books will help them survive.

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