Like most Americans, Julie Buckles, the owner of Honest Dog Books in tiny Bayfield, Wisconsin, has had to be flexible in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Overnight, we went from hosting music, literary discussions, and poetry readings to shipping books all over the country,” she told me.
With her bookstore shuttered, Buckles is now relying on the U.S. Postal Service to stay in business. Honest Dog staff will even select a used book to “suit your mood,” based on your answers to a few personal questions. The cost: just $9, plus $4 for postal delivery.
The private United Parcel Service (UPS), on the other hand, charges at least $10.75 for book deliveries.
But just as the Postal Service is delivering more books, food and other essentials than ever, a crisis-related plunge in mail revenue threatens to bankrupt the system. Due in part to the pandemic, the Postal Service projects it will have a $13 billion revenue shortfall by September, the end of the fiscal year. That might just put it out of business.
Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.