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Local Bookstores See Increase In Sales Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Kay Erickson
Yellowstone Public Radio
Bookstores around Montana are noticing an increase in sales as people hunker down for COVID-19.


Some book stores in Montana say they’re seeing higher sales as more people become homebound and public libraries close due to the novel coronavirus. 

Ariana Paliobagis, owner of Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, says she and her staff are grateful they can get books to people.

“Stories are vital to our making sense of the world and our way of understanding and relating to each other. They can bring comfort; they can entertain; they can inform, and so I think books and stories are absolutely essential during difficult times," Paliobagis said.

She says books sales have actually increased over the last couple of days.

"The response has been tremendous actually,” Paliobagis said. 

Last Saturday, the day after the first four in-state COVID-19 cases were confirmed, Country Bookshelf announced it would offer free deliveries in Bozeman and Livingston and curbside pick-up. Paliobagis says the store also dropped the $5 shipping cost to $1 for any location in the U.S.

"We’ve been getting a lot of orders for all those options, and we’ve been been getting orders not just from our local community but from customers around the country and also our local customers have also been having us send books to their friends and family in other parts of the country,” Paliobagis said. 

Paliobagis says she’s seen more orders for kid’s activity books since they’re out of school and a slight increase in fiction over non-fiction. She says staff are happy to provide recommendations over the phone. Events with authors will be moved to Facebook Live whenever possible.

Garth Whitson of Shakespeare and Company, an independent book store in Missoula, says he also hopes to move more events into virtual spaces. He says sales have been really strong for this time of year, and it’s not uncommon for a customer to stock up with 5-to-15 books at a time.

Gustavo Belotta is the general manager of This House of Books, a member-owned, independent bookstore and tea shop in Billings. He says tea sales have significantly dropped, but he’s seen a small spike in games and online book sales.

A handful of community members have sent donations to This House of Books to provide reading material to people who may not have access.

While most libraries in Montana have closed, some like Williston Community Library in North Dakota are using Facebook Live to read books and lead activities with supplies most people already have in their homes.

The Billings Public Library is offering free daycare for essential healthcare workers and first responders.