WINDSOR, ONT. -- Independent bookstores in Windsor are seeing an uptick in sales as both the COVID-19 pandemic and social unrest have people seeking the covers — both hardcover and paperback.

The rescheduled Independent Bookstore Day took place on Saturday, after being delayed from its usual late-April slot due to the pandemic, and stores like Biblioasis in Windsor’s Walkerville neighbourhood were busier than usual.

“We have been overwhelmed by the support people have had for the bookstore,” said Dan Wells, owner of the independent Biblioasis book shop and publishing house. “Sales are actually up for us.”

The same is true for the shop’s Ottawa Street counterpart — Juniper Books.

The store reopened on July 2 and has had one of its strongest summers yet by sales.

“I’m a big fantasy/sci-fi fan so, with what’s going on, I love it for like escapism and everything and I find I’ve definitely been reading more,” said Jenny Brennan, a shopper at Biblioasis. “I have lots of books I want to read but, I still keep buying them.”

While local bookstores in Windsor report improved sales, the industry as a whole has had a bumpy year according to figures from BookNet Canada.

Through the first six months of 2020, sales are down by 3-million units with revenues down $63-million compared to the same time last year. In 2019, the book market in Canada was valued at more than $1.1-billion accounting for more than 54-million books sold.

Wells feels independent stores offer more than just a book warehouse.

“These bookshops serve the community in a way that Amazon and larger box stores simply can’t,” said Wells.

Wells points to a Biblioasis-published book, ‘Bookshops: A Reader’s History’ by Jorge Carrion, as accomplished reading on the joys of independent bookstores and the community benefits they bring.

“Independent bookstores, I think, punch above their weight, as they say, when it comes to sort of community involvement and their importance in making a community livable,” said Wells.

Walking into Biblioasis, you will see readers browse the aisles and stop to chat as Wells disappears to the basement to uncover a book that might fit what his customer is after.

At Juniper Books, there are towers of pages that offer customers a mini-maze to roam. There are books stacked on steps. There are separate rooms of books.

That chance for discovery and interaction is something Wells feels more readers want — likely because of pandemic boredom but, also likely because of the Black Lives Matter movement dominating news feeds.

“People are reading more, they’re reading better, they’re returning to classics. They’re trying to make sense of the world we find ourselves in,” said Wells. “There’s tremendous interest in literature by Black writers or people of colour, trying to explore the civil rights unrest that we’re seeing all around us.”

For others in Windsor, the independent book store is a chance to shop local and support those in their community during a difficult period.

“I think Windsor’s got a great community so, you want to support, go to the local coffee shops, like, we went to the farmer’s market today so, just trying to get out and support the community because it’s tough,” said Brandon Fragomeni, after buying a new book at Biblioasis.

According to the Independent Bookstore Day page, there are over 600 independent bookstores in Canada.