Bugs and Bookstores

Kleenex-small-boxJust read a ShelfTalker piece from Publishers Weekly about the challenges of staying healthy if you are a bookseller. Let’s just say that it is not easy when one works with the public all day to stay healthy during cold and flu season. The writer talks about parents who stop at the store with obviously sick kids to pick up books, on the way to the pediatrician. Handling cash and credit cards of those who may not have coughed into their elbows is a recipe for time off.

I suppose there is no way we are ever going to have perfectly germ-free environments no matter how many “safe sneezing and coughing” videos we watch and how many hand sanitizers and sprays we use. What you would hope for instead is some common sense and courtesy. The truth is that booksellers aren’t the only ones affected. Cafe workers have to handle germy cups and plates. Other customers may handle books or other articles a sick person has touched including door handles. In our go-go culture we’ve been trained to do just that until we are laid out, sick as a dog, sick.

Instead of passing along sickness to the fellow bibliophiles, here are a few thoughts:

  • This is a great time to catch up on reading the books you have. Take that cold or flu medicine, get into your jammies, get a cup of hot tea, and snuggle up with a good book.
  • Need books? Here is where an e-reader is really helpful. You can borrow them from the library or buy them online without putting a single person at risk.
  • There are also many sources of free books such as Project Gutenberg, the Internet Archive, and a number of free Kindle books on Amazon, and other online sources that you can read on a tablet or computer.
  • That’s not possible? You can reserve books online at your library and pick them up with minimal contact, particularly if you have self-checkout. Can the books carry microbes? It’s possible but most die within hours or days in a dry environment. Maybe if your kids are sick, you can make sure they use hand sanitizers and wait three days before returning the books.
  • You can put a call out on Facebook to your friends that you are desperate for books. Let them know your favorite types. And maybe they can bring some chicken soup as well. If not, the books are a good substitute!

Many of us develop good relationships with our booksellers. They are our friends. If they work at an indie store, it is not always easy for them to take time off if they get sick.

Love thy bookseller as thyself!

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