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The Pandemic Upended Business For LA’s Local Bookstores. How Are They Faring?

An aerial view of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles on June 12, 2012.
An aerial view of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles on June 12, 2012.
Andres Aguila/KPCC

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Many Angelenos might look fondly on memories built at their local bookstores, from reading in the aisles of Vroman’s Bookstore as a kid, to wandering the stacks at Eso Won Books or exploring newer area bookshops like Reparations Club.

But for local bookstores, restrictions brought on by the coronavirus pandemic have forced closures, furloughs, reduced hours and prompted a significant shift to online shopping. Many stores are still afloat, if just barely. Vroman’s Bookstore, the over century-old historic Pasadena bookshop, put out a call urging customers to come back and shop ahead of the holidays or Vroman’s would be at risk of closing permanently. Customers flocked back to the store, and it's not the only time since the pandemic began that local stores got a sales jolt. This summer, George Floyd protests prompted waves of customers to order anti-racism books from Black-owned bookstores, prompting backlogs and long wait lists for titles. 

The holiday season, while typically the most lucrative time of year, will look very different for bookstores this year. How are they navigating the challenges of the pandemic, and what is the forecast for post-pandemic business?

Today on AirTalk, we’re learning more about the state of local bookstores. How have you been supporting your local bookstore during the pandemic? We want to hear from you! Give us a call at 866-893-5722.


Julia Cowlishaw, CEO of Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena and Book Soup in West Hollywood; they tweet @vromans

James Fugate, co-owner of Eso Won Books in Leimert Park; they tweet @EsoWon

Josh Spencer, co-owner of The Last Bookstore; they tweet @lastbookstorela

Leah Koch, co-owner of The Ripped Bodice bookstore in Culver City; they tweet @TheRippedBodice