“Book Desert in Covid-19”


I am a nonstop reader and have been since I was very little. I have no way to afford all the books I read each year, so I rely heavily on the local library. We are fortunate to live in a small state with many town libraries, each housing different collections depending on the tastes of the librarian. Interlibrary loan allows me to have books sent to my library from all over the state. I can place holds on popular books and just wait for an email alerting me that I can come pick them up. Our own town’s library has an excellent selection of new books, both fiction and nonfiction. My tastes seem to align more with the librarian than with many of my neighbors, and I can often check out a book just after I have read a review of it in The New York Times.

As I wrote last fall, I have also become a devotee of Riverbend Books in the adjoining town. This independent shop has an eclectic assortment of volumes and introduces me to many I would otherwise miss. I buy books here when they look worth owning. Because I read fiction so quickly, I rarely buy fiction, but do purchase history and social science offerings there.

Enter the pandemic. The library has been closed since mid-March. Riverbend Books has been closed since mid-March. Nothing here will open before May 20. The bookstore may be able to have a couple of customers at a time wearing masks. The library will likely remain closed much longer. While I know that many readily have changed to e-books, I cannot stand them. I need the physical book in my hands. With such a reduced availability of books, I have really had to come up with a Covid-19 reading strategy. Sadly, no strategy has been able to duplicate in any way my normally abundant reading life.

Forget getting a haircut. Forget going to the movies. I need to go to a bookstore! I need the library!

35 thoughts on ““Book Desert in Covid-19”

  1. I am right there with you Elizabeth. I miss our local libraries……and I am really missing our bookstores. Like you I also cannot stand e-books……it is not the same.


  2. There are huge numbers of free books online. Almost of all Dickens, and most of the old classics too. You may have read most of those in the past, but surely not all of them? Here is just ONE link from the dozens I found searching ‘Free books online’.
    Best wishes, Pete.


  3. I hear you! Mom and I frequented the used book stores regularly to replenish our supplies. I also visited the library at least once a month. I have bought a few books online (both new and used) in the last month for us to share but I miss browsing in the bookstores. I like to pick up a book, hold it in my hand and peruse its contents before bringing it home. It’s just not the same online.


  4. I feel your pain. It is terrible to be without satisfying reading material, especially when you have large amounts of time on your hands. Additionally, I too hate reading novels on a screen–even if there are so many readily available, it becomes work instead of enjoyment and then the whole purpose goes right out the window. I am in Wisconsin, and we are still locked down for at least a couple more weeks and out local libraries have been closed since about the same point as yours. Just this Monday though our little local institution started doing curbside pickup! You can request books through the online catalogue or by calling in and talking directly to the librarian, set up a time to pick them up, and the librarian will leave them in a little bag on a table outside of the library’s side door. You have a 15 minute window (so the books don’t get left out in the elements and you don’t run into anyone else trying to pick up their books) and there is no contact with the librarian, so all social distancing safety is maintained. Additionally, if you are looking for books but don’t know exactly what you want (because you would normally just browse the shelves until something jumped out at you or because you have children and just need a whole bunch of story books), you can give the librarian some perimeters and she will put together some for you too. Our librarian was so happy to do it for us when I talked to her, plus I got several children’s books that I may never have picked up for my kids but that are so wonderful. Since a good chunk of most librarians’ calling is to get books into the hands of the public, I imagine she was feeling sad just looking at all the books on her shelves that she couldn’t get to her people. Anyway, maybe this would be something that your local library could look into. If nothing else, it doesn’t hurt to send an email and ask!


  5. Aw, poor you. I’ve been really lucky – I had a pile of books by my bed anyway, and then a friend dropped a box of books round. I’ve also been raiding my kids’ bookshelves – I reread ‘Heidi’ the other week. And of course then there’s Amazon/Waterstones etc… I’m trying not to spend a fortune on new books but like you I like to have the paper copy rather than kindle or anything.


    1. We have a huge stack from the library that are due back when they reopen, but we had been just about to make a library run when they closed. I hadn’t thought of the kids’ books. Great idea.


  6. I started reading ebooks about two years ago, Elizabeth. Our postal system is so disastrous and so many parcels were getting lost [read that as stolen] that Amazon started only couriering books to SA. I used to have large orders of books delivered from Amazon and suddenly it was very expensive. So I started reading ebooks. It is not my preference, I prefer a real book, but I have become used to it. My son, Greg, will not read ebooks. Only now, during this lock down, has he read his set books using kindle as he had no other choice. I could not purchase the books any other way.

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  7. I hear you. I’m fortunate I suppose because I have so many unread books waiting on the shelves. Plus I had taken out a stack of library books just before it closed its doors. I can and do read e-books but I’ll always prefer the real thing and whilst I can go for a long while without an ebook on the go, I can’t cope for any time at all without a proper book in my hands.


    1. Our books were just about to go back to the library for a new bunch when it closed. Just like my haircut was scheduled for the day she closed shop. My timing is off for sure.


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