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Are Book Stores Essential Businesses?

March 30, 2020

(image via wikimedia)

With all the crazy stuff going on in the world, a lot of businesses in the United States are shutting down (temporarily, I hope).  Luckily, there are some exceptions, usually known as essential businesses, and bookstores want to be thought of as essential.

From what I’ve seen so far, a few of the book stores in my area are open, but they’re doing online sales and/or are letting limited numbers of customers into the store at a time.   I haven’t heard any declaration about whether or not bookstores are considered as essential, but I haven’t heard about any mayors/governors/presidents threatening to shut them down either.

If given the choice, I’d rather go into a book store than order online.  I’m both a browser and a germaphobe, but my browsing instincts are stronger, even now.  I want to go into the book store.  If I browse, I’ll buy more stuff, so it’s in the book store’s interest to let me in.  And if there’s anybody you should let into a store, it’s a germaphobe.

I’m glad that I still (kind of) have access to book stores, but the question still remains… are book stores really essential?

I’m biased because I read a lot, but I’ll try to act objective.

First of all, we need real books so that we have an alternative to the screens.  With so much of our lives conducted online now, that’s a lot of time that our human eyes are staring at those computer screens, laptop screens, and phone screens.  That’s way too much time.

We need books just to give our eyes a rest.  A lot of my non-blogging work is now being done online, and I’m already tired of staring at screens all the time.  If I have to stare at a screen to read books as well, I’ll  probably stop reading books.

We also need bookstores more than ever because the libraries have shut down.     I understand this because libraries aren’t always clean; you never know who has touched those old grimy books, and you don’t know who has been wandering around the library.  A lot of people wander the libraries, and a lot of those wanderers aren’t really sanitary, and they’re not really interested in books.  If the book store is limiting customers, you don’t have to worry about the unsanitary wanderers messing things up.

Plus, book stores are necessary for civilization to flourish. Every new bit of knowledge or insight needs a stable way to be stored, and nothing is more secure than a book.  Once a book has been dispersed among the public, it’s almost impossible to take it back.  With worldwide internet access, you can get information out more quickly than you can with books, but information channelled through the internet can also be shut down more quickly too (by governments, servers, platforms, etc…).

The situation doesn’t need to be that diabolical in nature either. If the electricity goes out long enough to run out of battery storage, where are you going to get your information/entertainment?

If you believe in conspiracies (and I’m not saying that I do), one major step to controlling people is to limit their book supply.  Today’s cancel culture can ban only a small percentage of books, and that’s only when normal people agree to it.  If the powers-that-be shut down the libraries and close the book stores, they will have succeeded at doing what other control freaks have failed at… (that thought sounded better in my head than it looks on the screen).

Going one step further, the powers-that-be could then shut down internet service (or limit it), and then the supply of knowledge will be completely controlled by a tiny few.  Conspiracy theorists are concerned about a one-government world (I would say “globalist government” but a lot of theorists don’t believe Earth is a globe) censoring the internet.  If the book stores get shut down, this globalist government will have complete control over the flow of information.

And going even another step further…  (deep breath)…okay… that’s enough for now.

Here’s a simpler reason.  I need books.  That’s why a book store should be considered an essential business.


What do you think?  Should book stores be considered essential?  What would you do without book stores and libraries?

  1. Our bookstores and libraries are close. Luckily, there are online options for acquiring books.

  2. Here in Lancashire UK I expect we have some of the same restrictions you do. Our public libraries are currently closed – ours are run by the local authority, Lancashire County Council. I must say our local library is much more than just a place to borrow books. There are lots of groups and societies meeting there. It is a sort of community centre. Just before the closure they issued a notice saying all members could take out up to 30 books while the shutdown applied. No charges or fines for overdue books. Just what I need to get me over the next few weeks. I don’t know what is happening about book shops. I expect they count as “non-essential retailers”. On the other hand many supermarkets and some corner shops have a few paperback books on the shelves.
    Our library also has a scheme “Borrow Box” where members can borrow books online.
    Could be worse as far as book supplies go.

  3. On the whole . . . I would say not. But I have an ereader and most of my reading is done on that. Which is not to say I don’t visit bookstores but it is not necessary for me.

  4. Here in New York, it is not considered an essential business, so all stores are shut down. Although this may be true, I am still able to go to my nearest Walmart/Target and pick up a book they have on their shelves. Target does a really good job of updating their supply of books every few weeks to include newer releases. Also, I take advantage of audiobooks during this time where I don’t necessarily want to stare at a screen either.

  5. Yes! Please keep book stores open!

  6. I had a hunch libraries would close, so I went to mine and got around a dozen books. The next day they announced they were closing that day. Whew! Fortunately for me, not only am I not allowed to return them until this health crisis is under control and they reopen, but also I can request books online and go and pick them up via a drive-through system.

  7. Not to me. I read a lot of books, and I can’t even remember the last time I actually bought a book in a bookstore to read. Excluding the times I had to buy a present for somebody, a guide book, or a book for a college course, maybe that happened once or twice in the last 25 years.
    I did buy a few dozen books at thrift stores and yard sales for a 50 cents to maybe a couple dollars a piece, but a brand new book in a library for $20-$30? No way.

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