If you’re like us, you’ve probably found yourself video conferencing a lot lately—with everyone from grandparents to colleagues to students. At UNC Wilmington, home to Lookout Books, we’ve been gathering in virtual classrooms for the past five weeks now, and as both publishers and teachers of publishing arts, we’ve become increasingly aware of privacy concerns when we virtually invite others into our homes. Maybe joining your latest meeting from a faraway beach or outer space elicited a much-needed chuckle (we hope so!), but for us and for many of our students, background images can be more than a joke or a momentary vacation. They can offer an essential layer of privacy and help maintain confidentiality around disparities in living situations.
We also know we’re not alone in missing the community that bookstores provide—being able to step inside and immediately surround ourselves with books and fellow book lovers. So we reached out to some beloved indie shops that graciously came through with these beautiful, inspiring (free!) backgrounds, available in high-resolution by clicking the thumbnail images below. Whether the next few weeks and months find you virtually attending or teaching classes, joining a book-club conversation, chatting with Grandma, or sitting through your hundredth Zoom meeting, we hope that these images will lift your spirits.
Until we’re able to gather again for readings, book clubs, and of course shopping, please visit these bookstores’ respective websites for ways to help sustain them through this difficult time. Many indies continue to host virtual story time for kids, readings, and book launches. They fill orders from behind closed storefronts and work twice as hard for a fraction of the income. They’re serving their communities—those of us who know just how essential books are. We recommend purchasing books from them online or curbside (if they’re offering that option), buying a gift card, or making a donation.
Books Are Magic
Opened in 2017 by Emma Straub and Michael Fusco-Straub, Books Are Magic is home to new releases and beloved classics, hidey-holes for children and books to read in them, gumballs filled with poetry, events almost every night of the week and story times on the weekends, and yes, plenty of magic. Haven’t managed to take a selfie in front of their iconic mural? Here’s your chance! Thanks to Michael Chin for this photo.
Brazos Bookstore opened in 1974 to encourage the growth and development of the Houston literary scene. It continues to be a hub for creative and engaged readers in Houston and is now owned by a group of twenty-seven Houstonians who purchased the bookstore when the original owner retired. Many thanks to the Brazos team for this photo.
Driftless Books & Music
Driftless Books & Music has called Wisconsin’s Viroqua Tobacco Warehouse home since 2009, stocking their shelves over the years with half a million rare, antiquated, used, and new books purchased from the inventories of a warehouse and seven bookstores in five different states. Also boasting collections of records, sheet music, art, and a wall of iconic beer cans; Driftless hosts local and regional bands, poetry jams, author readings, and other events in their community performance space. Later this month, Driftless will host Bookstock: Two Days of Peace, Indie Bookstores, and Music, a series of streamed performances by musicians in indie bookstores across the country. Thanks to owner Eddy Nix for this photo.
Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews
Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews is a bookstore and Spanish-style chocolatería owned and operated by Chapel Hill locals Miranda and Jaime Sanchez, who wholeheartedly believe that the communal experience is cultivated by the sharing of food, drink, culture, and story. At their shop in the heart of downtown, patrons can browse books while enjoying craft brews, a glass of wine, or churros and a cup of chocolate. During quarantine, Epilogue has been working with other local retailers to ship goodie boxes that include chocolate, coffee, and artwork. “We’re been sending those boxes all the way to California and Washington with little notes,” Jaime said in an interview with NBC. “The love for one another has no borders. Through this experience, we’ve seen that the sense of community goes beyond all that. . . . I’ve never felt the community let us go at it ourselves, which we’re so grateful for.” Thanks to Mason Hamberlin, beloved alum of UNCW’s publishing program, for connecting us and supplying this photo by Miranda Sanchez.