20% of independent bookstores across the country are in danger of closing. The American Booksellers Association has launched the “Boxed Out” campaign to draw attention to the high stakes indie bookstores face this holiday season in the age of Amazon and Covid-19, with installations in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, and a social media campaign.
When these independent bookstores close Covid will be listed as the cause of death, but the pre-existing condition for many may be listed as Amazon. The brown boxes that have become ubiquitous in building lobbies and on porches are “boxing out” bookstores and other small businesses all across the country, resulting in the loss of local jobs, local sales tax, community, and support.
Allison K Hill, CEO of ABA says, “People may not realize the cost and consequences of ‘convenience’ shopping until it’s too late. More than one indie bookstore a week has closed since the Covid-19 crisis began. At the same time, a report forecasts that Amazon will generate $10 billion in revenue on October 13 and 14 during its Prime Day promotion. Connecting these dots, it’s clear to see convenience has a cost and a consequence. Closed indie bookstores represent the loss of local jobs and local tax dollars; the loss of community centers; and the loss of opportunities for readers to discover books and connect with other readers in a meaningful face-to-face way.”
“Boxed Out” was designed by DCX Growth Accelerator, the agency behind the “Palessi” prank for Payless shoes, which was one of the biggest activations of 2019 and won them Silver Agency of the Year from AdAge. This campaign’s signature “Boxed Out” installations are located in New York at McNally Jackson in Manhattan; Café con Libros, Community Bookstore, and Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn; Book Soup in West Hollywood; and Solid State in DC.
To tangibly demonstrate how our world is overtaken by those ubiquitous cardboard Amazon boxes, DCX created bespoke cardboard coverings to overtake each storefront. Piles of cardboard boxes spill out of these now-cardboard buildings, quipping “If you want Amazon to be the world’s only retailer, keep shopping there,” and cardboard books further bring the campaign message to life: “To Kill A Locally Owned Bookstore.”
Indie bookstores across the country are participating in #BoxedOut via social media, posters, and DIY displays. The following indies are helping to launch the targeted Twitter campaign: Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA; BookBar, Denver, CO; Books & Books, Miami, FL; Avid Bookshop, Athens, GA; Raven Bookstore, Lawrence, KS; Source Booksellers, Detroit, MI; Moon Palace, Minneapolis, MN; Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO; Word NY, Brooklyn, NY; Word NJ, Jersey City, NJ; Fountain Bookstore, Richmond, VA; Village Books, Bellingham, WA; Loyalty, Washington, DC; Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA; and Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI.
A Small Business Majority survey in August indicated that without additional funding, 26 percent of small business owners will not survive past the next three months, and nearly one in five say they won’t make it longer than four to six more months.
This week the House antitrust subcommittee released its report on Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Google detailing the anticompetitive behavior of the companies and recommending a number of reform measures.
Choosing a locally owned business generates three times as much economic benefit for the local region as shopping at a chain, as noted by a study by American Independent Business Alliance. The 2019 Civic Economics “Prime Numbers” study reports that approximately 28 percent of all revenue of indie bookstores immediately recirculates in the local economy. This translates into a massive local impact advantage of 610 percent over Amazon (which recirculates only 4 percent locally). Buying local also means less packaging, less transportation, and a smaller carbon footprint.
In a recent Los Angeles Times Op-Ed Hill said, “The same way our votes in the upcoming election will shape our country’s future, where we spend our money this holiday season will determine the communities we find ourselves in come 2021.”
You can find your closest indie bookstore at IndieBound.org.
Adriana Chavez is the editor for Vacancy. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org