Times are tough and indie bookstores are turning to GoFundMe campaigns to ask for loyal customers’ and supporters of the industry’s help. But what happens once the money is collected? A shit show, it appears.
Growing numbers of indie bookstores in the U.S. are turning to GoFundMe to raise funds to pay expenses like payroll, rent, and utilities to stay afloat in the absence of customers this spring. But some bookstores are having problems actually accessing those funds.
High-profile booksellers seeking recourse have flocked to the platform, including City Lights Books in San Francisco, probably the most famous indie bookstore in the country. Elaine Katzenberger, publisher and CEO of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, launched a GoFundMe campaign on Thursday to raise $300,000 for the iconic institution, which was founded by Lawrence Ferlinghetti in 1953. Its headline was blunt: “Keep City Lights Alive.” By Monday morning, the campaign had raised more than $450,000, a seemingly rousing success celebrated immediately online by the literary world—just as it previously heralded Ann Arbor’s Literati Bookstore’s success in raising $100,000 in just 48 hours through the platform.
Yet a number of the stores that were among the first to launch successful campaigns in the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic are complaining that, to date, GoFundMe has not released the funds promised them.