More than online sales: What being a virtual bookstore looks like in shut-down
While the first four recipients of Copyright Agency emergency funding for innovative online projects went to a podcast, two online author interview platforms and a speakers agency, booksellers have been innovating online en masse since most have closed their physical store fronts.
Avid Reader: 800 ‘bums on seats’
In Brisbane, Avid Reader’s events manager Krissy Kneen has been running the store’s busy events program from her home. ‘It is amazing what you can do in a tiny one bedroom flat,’ she told Books+Publishing. ‘I would never have expected I could run a whole events program from a tiny nook that measures less than the 1.5 meters squared that you would need to avoid other human beings.’
Kneen said the store’s regular bookclubs were meeting via Zoom, with good feedback, and its online events were ‘going great guns!’
‘We have an event almost every night of the week and quite a few weekend events too. We have transitioned to run our events on Zoom and so far so good.’ Kneen said a couple of ‘forgivable local internet lags’ have not dampened spirits.
‘In the last couple of weeks we’ve run 14 launches, in-conversation events, panel discussions, story reading and even a silent reading party. We have had over 800 devices signed in to events in that time and with several people watching some devices, that’s a lot of bums on seats for a three-week period.’
Crucially, Kneen said the store’s online events were affecting sales in a similar pattern to pre-lockdown physical events. ‘It was nice to see that three of last week’s events turned up on our bestseller roundup for the week,’ she said. ‘ When events were held in real life almost all of them turned up on the bestseller list for each week, which was very nice for an events coordinator to see!’ Kneen said she was happy events were ‘settling into the same position online’.
‘The pandemic has certainly forced us to think quick, dance to different tunes and use all our creativity to keep the literary world connected, but seems like it has worked!’
Dymocks: 41,000 tune in for Zusak
National chain Dymocks has launched Chapter One, an online events program that debuted with Fiona McIntosh in a session that attracted more than 3000 individual viewers online. Since then, Dymocks spokesperson Sue Bobbermein told Books+Publishing, the chain has had ‘overwhelmingly positive feedback’. She said readers have ‘the opportunity to ask questions of their favourite authors’.
‘Readers love to support local authors and hear from international authors who they wouldn’t normally get access to.’ Bobbermein said the most successful event had been with Markus Zusak discussing The Book Thief, a perennial favourite which was voted number one in the Dymocks top 101 this year. ‘It was a truly global book meet-up, with fans tuning in from as far as India, Wales, Croatia, and Brazil and it had an overall reach of 41,000.’
Dymocks has events scheduled under the First Chapter banner until mid June and will continue the program through the rest of the year. Bobbermein encouraged publishers to ‘get on board and help us support authors who have had their events and publicity tours cancelled as well as introduce international authors to an engaged community’.
Bobbermein said customers were very supportive of the chain’s efforts during lockdown. ‘Our [Net Promoter Scores] are excellent at the moment as stores adapt to the situation by offering new delivery options and exceptional customer care,’ she said.
Gertrude & Alice: Paid book recommendation service
In Sydney, Bondi new and used bookstore Gertrude & Alice has launched a book recommendation service. The ‘Bibliotherapist’ service offers dedicated Zoom consultations with book blogger Lucy Pearson of The Literary Edit, as a way for the store to connect ‘customers with books even during lockdown’.
‘The Bibliotherapist will find the perfect book for each person; whether it be a classic tome, contemporary novel or inspiring memoir, she will offer a bespoke prescription,’ said the store in a statement.
For $60 customers are sent a questionnaire or allocated a Zoom consultation with Pearson, who will then hand-pick two books ,which will be delivered to their door alongside one of Gertrude & Alice’s ‘famous sweet treats’.
Store owner Jane Turner said Gertrude & Alice had ‘been inundated with reading requests from both regular customers and new readers, who are hoping to seek solace among the pages of a book in these uncertain times’. Turner said Pearson’s ‘depth of knowledge when it comes to books is unrivalled, and we believe she’s the best person around to incite a love of literature in the people of Sydney’.
Are you a bookseller trying something new? Discovering something you will continue after lockdown? Tell us: firstname.lastname@example.org
Category: Local news