Harcourt and Area Bookstores Affected by California Wildfires


The wildfires that have swept southern California this past week have caused several bookstores and at least one publisher, Harcourt, to temporarily halt business, Publishers Weekly recently reported.

After remaining closed for two days, Harcourt’s West Coast office, located in downtown San Diego, reopened on Wednesday. Dan Farley, the president of Harcourt Trade, was quoted as saying air quality is "better than in most areas." Farley estimated that a half dozen of Harcourt’s seventy-five employees were forced to evacuate their homes after the fires began on Sunday; others were not able to travel to the office.

Southern California bookstores have experienced significant shifts in business, as those closer to evacuation areas have seen sales plummet due to closings and lack of customers, while stores near safe zones have reported increased sales. Alison Reid, co-owner of Diesel in Malibu, said that she has kept the store open "more as a civic duty than for business," offering a meeting space for those affected by the fires. Business has picked up at Bay Books in Coronado, an island town where many who left their homes in San Diego are staying. Though Warwick’s in La Jolla has experienced a similar rise in customer traffic, the bookstore has encountered some setbacks, as it has been forced to cancel several events, and UPS is not making deliveries to the store.

Chain bookstores Barnes & Noble and Borders have had to shut a total of sixteen stores over the past week, though Borders was able to reopen four of its outlets in the middle of the week.

Jennifer Bigelow, executive director of the Southern California Independent Booksellers Association, told Bookselling This Week on Wednesday that she had not received reports that any stores have been damaged, though many booksellers were among those forced to evacuate their homes.