Kids' library | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

How do people and firms respond to the pandemic lockdowns? One particularly interesting example comes from Books-A-Million. As The New Publishing Standard reports (shared by Passive Guy), America’s second-largest bookstore chain, Books-A-Million, is readying for tomorrow’s Mother’s Day by opening almost all of its 200 stores across the country, the exceptions being states or counties where full lockdown continues.

But there’s a catch: the re-opening is taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic… and hinting at a possible future of publishing.

The old normal

As Books-A-Million CEO Terrance G. Finley said in a press release,

Through online ordering; the buy online, pick-up in store option; and curbside pick-up, our guests have continued to seek out great books, educational materials, puzzles and toys…

Now that we are able to welcome our customers back to the stores in time for Mother’s Day, our booksellers stand ready to share the rich assortment of new books and products that we have been curating over the past weeks.

But what products are those?

Cosmetic labels adorning cases in beautiful floral prints and a wide assortment of Mom mugs, along with items for self-care, including journals, relaxation kits, candles, and more will be edging books off the shelves.

Books-A-Million’s new normal looks remarkably like the old normal. A book store that believes that books aren’t attractive enough on their own to keep customers coming through the doors.

The new normal

Then, there is the new normal.

Recognizing that post-pandemic book lovers who visit the stores won’t want to be standing around shouting across to staff standing six feet away to discuss the latest releases, Books-A-Million has launched its new program “Talk to a Bookseller,” which gives book lovers the opportunity to speak to bookselling experts for recommendations by calling 866-544-1468.

Further, the newly launched curbside pick-up offering will continue to be available to at least entice customers to the vicinity of the store.

For those few that are willing to risk walking through the doors, Books-A-Million has implemented additional efforts to provide a safe shopping environment for guests and associates with some noticeable precautions in place, including providing personal protective equipment for associates, installing acrylic register guards at all check-out areas, and implementing self-distancing markers in aisles and at the registers.

In other words, the pandemic shopping experience at Books-A-Million will be a combination of old normal and new normal.

One can’t help but wonder how many of these changes will stick. Even after the pandemic, the Talk to a Bookseller may be a lifeline for those who can’t leave their homes, for whatever reason. And social distancing tendencies may well persist long after COVID has passed.

An online world is emerging.