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Independent Bookstores Get Creative to Survive the Long Lockdown

A business that relied on walk-ins and impulse buys has to find new ways to connect with customers.
The Strand Bookstore in New York.

The Strand Bookstore in New York.

Photographer: Alexandra Schuler/Getty Images

After several days of hunkering down at home in late March, this reporter decided it was time to seek out a few literary diversions to keep the coronavirus blues at bay—some novels for myself, mysteries for my 13-year-old, a nonfiction thriller for a friend’s birthday. Learning that Walden Pond Books, my favorite independent bookstore in Oakland, Calif., was closed but still taking orders for pickup, I phoned in my list and rode my bike to the normally laid-back shop. On the door was a very unmellow admonition: a cardboard sign blaring “DO NOT TOUCH DOOR HANDLE!!”

After putting on yellow rubber kitchen gloves, I knocked on the window, then stood several feet back. Soon a lone employee wearing a mask cracked open the door and asked for my name. I whispered it. A few minutes later, he reappeared carrying a brown paper bag and handed over the sanitized goods. Before taking it, I looked furtively around, half expecting to see cops.