The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has provided a $3.5 million grant to provide emergency support to literary arts organizations affected by Covid-19. The Academy of American Poets, Community of Literary Magazines and Presses, and the National Book Foundation will jointly administer this Literary Arts Fund. Literary organizations and publishers may apply for one-time emergency relief grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 through August 7. Grants will be distributed by September 15.
Work From Home
Sourcebooks announced that it has extended the option of remote work for all employees in its four US offices through the end of the year. CEO Dominique Raccah said, “This is a difficult time for all Americans. Given the uncertain course of the Covid-19 pandemic, childcare and schooling are in flux and many people will have concerns about their health and the health of others they care about. All of which is putting enormous stress on employees and their families. Our job as employers is to keep our staff safe, and to give each person the opportunity to take care of their families and be successful as they continue to grow their careers at Sourcebooks.”
Earlier this week, current Simon & Schuster parent company ViacomCBS said in a memo to staff from ceo Bob Bakish, “While we were hopeful we’d be able to bring a small number of employees back to U.S. office locations beginning in August, due to recent spikes it’s clear this will not happen. In fact, at this point, we are assuming the majority of employees will not be returning to U.S. offices this year.”
James Daunt continues to oversee the firing of experienced book buyers: The head of buying at Waterstones-owned Foyles Jasper Sutcliffe has had his role eliminated after 21 years with the bookseller, and gift and stationery buyer Abel Dos Santos and area manager Patrizia Sorrentino were also fired, the Bookseller reports. A Waterstones spokesperson said: “It is with regret that we confirm that a small number of roles at Foyles have been made redundant. This was not an easy decision and we would like to thank all those affected for all their hard work…. The central books team will be on hand to support bookshop managers and booksellers to achieve this, whilst bespoke replenishment and range work for Foyles will continue to be done at a local level.”
Powell’s Books ceo Emily Powell explained in a note to customers that their stores remained closed since “we feel we cannot honor the social distancing guidelines presented by the CDC.” She explains: “Beyond the not insignificant question of safety, however, lies the financial risk to Powell’s future created by reopening too soon. Reopening our stores is no simple matter. Doing so would require great expense — returning staff to work, bringing in additional inventory, procuring safety equipment, redesigning store operations — well in advance of opening our doors. And we hear from our friends and peers in the book and independent retail industries that in-person shopping remains nearly nonexistent.” For now, they are not paying rent “for the vast majority of our spaces” and are using their PPP loan, but “we know that when we have exhausted our loan, we will have to face painful choices.”
Additionally, she pledges new efforts in “the fight for racial justice.” They will “focus our efforts in four areas: our community partnerships, internal education opportunities, the evolution of our daily work, and hiring.”
Day-traders and speculators drove up the price of some education-related stocks this week, riding off of interest in (and rumors about) Boxlight, which makes online teaching tools. On Thursday that interest lifted shares of moribund Houghton Mifflin Harcourt‘s stock by more than 30 percent, pumped by rumors that the company was signing new domestic and international sales contracts. Last night the company issued a press release noting there had been “several false rumors were posted on Twitter after marked trading hours about signing new sales contracts both domestically and internationally” and declared that “these rumors are factually incorrect.”
But that only called more attention to the stock’s lift and drove prices higher again still on Friday morning, with continued heavy volume. HMHC saw trading volume spike to almost 29 million shares on Thursday, and moved another 29 million shares in the first 90 minutes of trading today. Also on July 16, HMHC released Teacher’s Corner, a “brand new online space that supports continuous professional learning for educators, but there was no legitimate news to explain a sustained 20 percent rise. Some carryover interest is benefitting another distressed education-sector stock as well, with shares of Barnes & Noble Education gaining over 20 percent on Friday morning (and up almost 45 percent since the close on Tuesday).
PublishersMarketplace.com is a recognized small business customer in American Express’s current “Shop Small” promotion. Under their promotional terms, every time you spend over $10 with a qualified small business Amex gives you $5 back, up to 10 times, through September 20. This should apply to a number of independent bookstores and other small businesses you would like to support. It’s not automatic, though; to qualify, Amex cardholders need to “register” for the offer online by July 26 (it’s one click under the Offers & Benefits section on the AmericanExpress.com site). That means that if you register, monthly PM members could qualify for anywhere from one to three payment credits, depending on your billing date.