This Windsor, Ont. bookshop now offers home delivery because of COVID-19

Since bookshops aren't considered essential services in Ontario — and since larger retailers like Indigo have temporarily closed stores — Biblioasis has begun offering home deliveries for readers stuck inside during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Biblioasis is closed for browsing, but open for delivery

Biblioasis founder and publisher Dan Wells has been making home deliveries for almost two weeks, bringing books to Windsorites stuck inside during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Dale Molnar/CBC)

Since bookshops aren't considered essential services in Ontario — and since larger retailers like Indigo have temporarily closed stores — one Windsor, Ont. shop has begun offering home deliveries for readers stuck inside during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dan Wells, founder and publisher at Walkerville's Biblioasis, said his business closed its doors on Monday, March 16, so he needed to find a new way to get books to people who could no longer visit the shop. 

"We didn't have a web presence really," he said. "We had a website, but it didn't have any commerce aspect. So we got a commerce site set up, and we began doing home deliveries."

Wells said he and and his son have been driving across the city, "putting on a different Wilco album everyday," delivering books to customers. 

Acknowledging the need to stay cautious, Wells said he's been dropping off books at doorsteps, in mailboxes, and even in "coolers" set up by some especially wary residents looking to avoid spreading COVID-19.

"There have been some customers where one of the partners has been very ill, and they're very worried about this," he said. "Generally speaking, I leave them on the porch or in the mailbox. I knock, ring the doorbell, phone them, move away. So there's no real physical interaction."

What Windsorites are reading, according to Biblioasis

  • From the Ashes: My Story of Being Métis, Homeless, and Finding My Way by Jesse Thistle
  • Weather by Jenny Offill
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney
  • Bush Runner: The Adventures of Pierre-Esprit Radisson by Mark Bourrie
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

And the deliveries haven't just been a new way of connecting to customers. Sales vary from day to day, Wells said, but Biblioasis has been able to generate between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of its usual revenue. 

Though it's not necessarily enough to make up for actual physical sales, Wells said he believes "this really is one of the ways we as businesspeople can serve the community."

COVID-19 has seriously disrupted publishing cycle, says Biblioasis

While Biblioasis's bookshop has been able to adapt slightly to the realities of life during the COVID-19 pandemic, Wells said the same isn't entirely true for the company's publishing aspect. 

Employees have been working from home for almost two weeks, and the editorial and production side of things haven't changed very much.

However, publicity and marketing have been affected, Wells said, pointing out that almost all of the events scheduled for March, April and May have gone "out the window."

The release of all Biblioasis books has been delayed at least four weeks, with some books being delayed up to eight weeks.

"We expect to push back further," Wells said, adding that he's seen a 56 per cent drop in trackable revenue over the last week. "We expect that's just the start of the drop."

Wells isn't sure what the delays will mean for authors who have books set to be published by Biblioasis, adding that every author with whom he's spoken has said that they want their books delayed.

We're definitely delaying a lot of titles.- Dan Wells, Founder and Publisher, Biblioasis

"There is no way they feel confident they could get attention," he said. "They're afraid their books would get lost."

Wells said he hopes to be able to publish e-book version of titles more quickly, withholding physical books until shops are able to open again.

Listen to Dan Wells talk about home delivery and publishing concerns with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre:

How is COVID-19 affecting the book world? We asked Windsor publisher and bookseller Dan Wells, owner of Biblioasis. 8:25

"We're definitely delaying a lot of titles," he said. "A lot of our spring titles will become fall titles. Our fall titles will be pushed to 2021. So our publishing schedule is going to be much slimmer than it was intended."

Branches are closed, but e-book loans are still here, says Windsor Public Library

While Biblioasis is offering home deliveries on book purchases, Windsor Public Library (WPL) CEO Kitty Pope said there's been quite a lot of interest in the e-books offered on loan by her organization. 

Approximately one-third of the library's usage comes from electronic use, Pope said, adding that approximately 300,000 electronic titles — ranging from books to databases — are downloaded each year.

What Windsorites are reading, according to the Windsor Public Library

  • The Alice Network by Kate Quinn
  • The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel

WPL is still waiting for its March circulation numbers, but Pope said she thinks online use has at least doubled. 

"Windsorites are busy," Pope said. 

Want more reading recommendations? Listen to Kitty Pope's interview with Afternoon Drive host Chris dela Torre:

The Windsor Public Library may be physically closed, but the virtual library is wide open. We asked CEO Kitty Pope what Windsorites are reading in the middle of a global pandemic. 5:49


With files from Afternoon Drive