Mr. Hunter had the idea for Bookshop nearly a decade ago, when he was working as the editor in chief of Electric Literature, a nonprofit digital publisher. He had watched with alarm as independent bookstores struggled to adapt to the rise of online retail. But he found little support for the proposal. “The people I spoke to didn’t really think it had a chance, so I didn’t pursue it,” he said.

Then, in early 2018, Mr. Hunter, who is now the publisher of the independent press Catapult and the website Lit Hub, met with representatives of the American Booksellers Association. The trade group asked Mr. Hunter for suggestions on how to improve IndieBound, its e-commerce site for independent stores. Instead, he proposed building something from scratch — a site that would offer seamless online shopping for book buyers who want to support local bookstores. Shoppers can select a particular store to buy from, or they can buy straight from Bookshop.

Orders are fulfilled through Ingram, a large book distributor, and mailed directly to customers, so stores don’t have to have the books in stock or process inventory. Bookstores get 30 percent of the list price — less than they would typically make from a direct sale — but don’t have to pay for inventory or shipping.

Bookshop doesn’t profit from the sales that go through particular stores. Instead, it makes money through its direct sales and from affiliate sales, when media organizations, book clubs and social media sites feature links to Bookshop in book reviews or other coverage. The site now has more than 8,000 affiliates, including The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, BuzzFeed and New York magazine. IndieBound, which runs a similar affiliate sales program, is merging its operation with Bookshop’s. (For books that are sold directly by Bookshop, or through media affiliates, 10 percent of the list price goes into a profit pool that gets distributed to independent bookstores; so far, the site has funneled about a million dollars into the pool.)

The launch nearly coincided with the pandemic, which has devastated brick-and-mortar bookstores. In April, bookstore sales plummeted to $219 million, a decline of more than 65 percent from April 2019, according to figures released Tuesday by the Commerce Department. In the first four months of this year, bookstore sales fell by 23 percent compared to the same period in 2019.

  • Updated June 12, 2020

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.


Some stores are barely scraping by. Lisa Neuheisel, the owner of the Sequel Bookshop in Kearney, Neb., closed her store to customers on March 22 and didn’t have a way for them to shop online. She created a page for her store on Bookshop after she saw another bookseller’s Facebook post linking to the site. Bookshop accounted for roughly half her sales in April and May, while the rest were curbside pickup, she said. “The sales have been a lifeline for us,” she said.

Credit…via Danielle Mullen

Danielle Mullen, the owner of Semicolon, a year-old bookstore in Chicago, also joined Bookshop in mid-March. During April and May, Bookshop accounted for around 70 percent of the store’s roughly 1,800 orders. “It meant we could stay in business, and that’s all we’re trying to do,” she said.

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