As the world is suddenly shut indoors with the threat of Covid-19, more and more people are moving their social and business needs to the internet. Everyone is working from home and businesses are trying to keep up by reimagining their business in an online world. This comes with a sudden realization that our infrastructure is not ready to support a world that is fully internet based. We are now seeing Netflix Europe throttle it’s speeds to prevent crashing networks. You can read that article here.
Now that everyone is shut indoors the world has been forced to go entirely remote very suddenly. Schools have closed and are doing online classes only. People are being asked to stay indoors and storefronts have closed to protect the health of employees and the community. Businesses are making the shift to online sales since there is no other way to make a profit. Even shops that traditionally rely on in-person browsing such as independent bookstores are being forced to try to keep their businesses alive online. Tackling new technology and moving traditional services online with innovative approaches are the only choice for small businesses to survive the Covid-19 shutdown.
“Even shops that traditionally rely on in-person browsing such as independent bookstores are being forced to try to keep their businesses alive online”
Powell’s a large independent bookstore in Oregon was forced to layoff many employees when the doors closed to the public. Their online store remains open and with the loss of sales they cannot afford to pay for all their employees, and only those necessary to maintain the online store have been retained. Emily Powell, the CEO and owner, was heartbroken. In a letter to employees, Emily expressed how she wished she could have made different choices, but independent bookstores “run on duct tape and twine on a daily basis, every day trading funds from one pocket to patch the hole in another” and saying that she “can only hope we might find a way to come back together on the other side of these terrible times”.
“Independent bookstores ‘run on duct tape and twine on a daily basis, every day trading funds from one pocket to patch the hole in another”
– Emily Powell
Other book stores seemed to have found a bit more luck with slightly unconventional approaches. Bookstores like A Cappella Books in Atlanta scramble to keep up with deliveries via bicycle and also come up to speed with new technologies, such as Zoom, that allows them to have their group book discussions online in video conference style.
The Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in San Diego has had to close its doors and cancel its in person events. The book launch of N.K. Jemisin’s new novel The City We Became has turned into a live streaming event. Ticket holders to this live streaming event will still get to hear the author discuss her book and ask her questions. No longer able to have a book signed and handed to you in person, the live streaming event promises all participants a copy of the book and the option to sign up for a signed bookplate.
The owner of The Raven Book Store in Kansas, Danny Caine has also moved his business online. They will process orders called in via phone and from the website and then deliver books to people at home or through curbside pick-up. “We’re going to operate like a pizza takeout place,” said Danny Caine as he described this new service in a New York Times article on independent bookstores, “Curbside Pickup. Bicycle Deliveries. Virtual Book Discussions. Amid Virus, Bookstores Get Creative”. Mr. Caine has also set up a website where donations can be made to support the delivery of books to people in need.
Independent bookstores have their hands full battling loss of sales with innovative approaches including turning book signings into live streaming events and book club discussions via video conference calls. While this is a bold move that seems to be keeping the lights on for these shops, they soon may be battling insufficient network infrastructure as they fight with everyone else for bandwidth.
Since we’ve steadily been moving towards an online world of business for years it seems counterintuitive that networks are crashing with everyone working from home. One of the main problems lies in the difference between business and residential internet networks. To read more about that you can read part three of this article here.