A Victoria publisher is trying to give independent bookstores a boost during the pandemic by creating a Google map link of shops across the country.
So far, Don Gorman, publisher of Rocky Mountain Books, has 260 bookstores listed and views have topped 67,500. He has also just launched a link for independent publishers.
The attention is welcome for booksellers such as Barbara Pope, who, with husband Tom, owns Mulberry Bush bookstores in Parksville and in Qualicum Beach.
She thinks the map is a great way to support local booksellers. Customers seem to want to support smaller outlets online, rather than buying through huge corporate sellers, Pope said. “We have so many customers who are just going out of their way to support us right now,” she said. “I think that the map has really helped that.”
Mulberry Bush has a website that provides access to millions of books, Pope said. Customers can place their orders online for home delivery or pickup in a special no-touch area at the stores. (The Mulberry Bush stores are closed except for pickups.)
The company has been in business 30 years and has an established online presence, Pope said.
While overall business is down because of the lack of walk-in customers, online customers are helping the bottom line, she said. “We order a lot of books for them. It’s just a new way of doing business.”
Gorman, who used to be a bookseller in Calgary, had the idea for the map link in mid-March amid rising virus concerns. “We were trying to track where our books were available and how to direct people who were interested in getting them. It was getting really tough to conceptualize where all these stores were,” he said. “I just woke up and decided: ‘Well, I’m just going to have to create a map so that I can actually see where these stores are and it just grew from there.”
The many thousands of views of the map show there’s “definitely a need,” said Gorman, who started with a post on Facebook. “Basically it went wild from there. A lot of publishers commented on it and shared it.”
His own bookseller friends on Facebook shared it, as well.
Gorman researched bookstores that he could find online and checked their websites for delivery and curbside pickup services. Bookstores have contacted him, as have shoppers, wanting to see specific outlets on the map. “Since then, I basically get one or two emails a day from local bookstores somewhere in the country asking to be added.”
The maps are confined to Canada, said Gorman, who does not know how many independent bookstores there are in Canada. “I don’t think anybody really knows,” he said. “I assume that this map will continue to grow. As the stores start to open, I think I will probably get contacted on a regular basis.”
He predicts the map will eventually grow to include more than 300 stores. “It’s awesome. It’s really exciting,” Gorman said, describing bookstores as a “really important community link for a lot of people.”