In a nation divided by coronavirus restrictions there is one certainty.  Christmas is coming.

There are 43 virtual shopping days to Christmas and when England comes out of lockdown there will be just 23 days to storm the shops for that lovely, touchy, feely, inquisitive fix of finding the right gift.

Books, whether the real thing or on Kindle, alongside smellies, are the de facto fail safe for great aunt Jean and a deliberate choice for thousands of children, friends, and rellies. And whether you are Amazon or Waterstones there’s money to be made. And a living, at least, if you are an independent book store.

In February 2019 Waterstone posted a 39 per cent rise in pre-tax profits – up from £19.9m to £27.7m  And, online giant, Amazon – founded by Jeff Bezos in July 1995 as a website for book sales only – saw its profits rise by 35%. With High Street Christmas shopping yet to be confirmed the online big boys look set to clean up… or are they?

Covid-19 is a leveller, but human beings are plucky and faced with jeopardised livelihoods, authors and independent book sellers are fighting back.

Author, Holly Bourne, who wrote ‘How Do You Like Me Now’, had an idea to get shoppers back to bookstores for festive purchases. She and fellow authors are sending bookplates – ex libris labels – bearing the author’s signature to stores so that shoppers can buy autographed copies, click and collect style, over lockdown. You can’t do that on the internet! The idea has snowballed with 300 plus authors including Dolly Alderton, Jack Monroe, Holly Webb, Juno Dawson, David Nicholls, Dorothy Koomson and Karl Newson getting involved and #SignForOurBookshops has had 667 retweets since it was posted on November 5.

Speaking to the Guardian’s, Alison Flood, Holly Bourne said:

‘I love the idea of authors working like Christmas elves, over the next month, handwriting messages for customers promoting bookshops.’

Readers can find participating authors by following #SignForOurBookshops and the scheme is set to finish on December 2 as the shops reopen.

This month Amazon faces further competition – on its own online turf too. This week online enterprise Bookshop.org launched a socially conscious rival to Amazon.  Independent books shops can create their own virtual store front on the site and Bookshop.org gives them the full profit margin of 30 per cent on each copy sold.

By SmithE

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