Booksellers, Publishers, Authors Work to Help Hurricane Victims

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Booksellers and others in the book industry have been passionate respondents to the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina. After first watching the loss of life and homes with horror, independent business owners have felt additional distress for those who face, at best, the daunting task of repairing damage done to their bookstores, or, at worst, the prospect of abandoning their ruined enterprises and, with it, their livelihoods.

Many booksellers, publishers, and book-related organizations contacted BTW after the news of extensive damage to local bookstores was reported, to announce ways that they are trying to help those in the affected areas. Here, BTW has compiled a list of some of their actions. New notices are coming in constantly, and readers are encouraged to continue to check's Hurricane Relief Center for updates.

The Bookseller Relief Fund has been created by ABA to help meet the humanitarian needs of booksellers affected by Hurricane Katrina. ABA has seeded the fund with an initial contribution of $25,000, and the association is encouraging others in the book industry, including its Book Sense Publisher Partners, to contribute to the fund, which will be used to meet the needs of all booksellers who are facing critical problems with basics such as food, housing, and transportation.

Many bookstores are collecting monies directly or through special events and others are donating books to shelters; many publishers are donating monies and books to various relief causes:

  • Newtonville Books in Newtonville, Massachusetts, will hold a special event on September 11, already a day of mourning in America.Writers4Relief, spearheaded by Amy Tan, along with many other notable authors, will feature short readings of Southern literature to benefit the American Red Cross. Contact [email protected] for more information.

  • The Book House in St. Louis, Missouri, raised money for the Red Cross to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina by donating 10 percent of all sales during its Labor Day and Kid's Day Sale. The store continues to donate 10 percent of all sales to the Red Cross through the week.

  • In Anchorage, Alaska, Cook Inlet Book Company has donated money to the Salvation Army and is collecting in the store for the Bookseller's Relief Fund. It will also donate a portion of its book signing revenue through December to the fund.

  • Page & Palette of Fairhope, Alabama, announced that the focus of an Alexander McCall Smith event has been changed because of Hurricane Katrina. As was previously planned, the Sunday, September 25, event will still benefit the South Baldwin United Way. However, most of the funds raised for this event will now go to the victims of the hurricane.

  • Joseph-Beth Booksellers, located in Lexington, Kentucky; Cincinnati and Cleveland, Ohio; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has mounted a special promotion to benefit the Red Cross Gulf relief effort. The stores are featuring special displays of books, CDs, and DVDs, during the month of September to help benefit the Red Cross in its effort to aid victims of Hurricane Katrina. Titles were chosen for the display to celebrate the history, music, and cuisine of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region in general. Emeril Lagasse, Louis Armstrong, Anne Rice, and the Marsalis brothers, are among the featured subjects. Joseph-Beth is donating all proceeds from the special displays to the American Red Cross. A list of corresponding titles will be available on, along with links directly to the Red Cross donation page.

  • From City Lights Books in San Francisco comes news of an event supporting those in need: On September 19, at The Makeout Room, the Progressive Reading Series will present A Special Benefit for the Victims of Hurricane Katrina, featuring Daniel Handler, Julie Orringer, Firoozeh Dumas, and many others. The event will benefit the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Fund and is hosted by Stephen Elliott and Matthew Iribarne.

  • Susan Novotny, owner of the Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany, New York, will donate 20 percent of all book sales over the next two weeks to Michele Lewis of Afro-American Book Stop in New Orleans. Novotny sees an advantage to donors who "[are open to supporting something] they can put a name and a face on -- an independent bookstore -- the soul of the community."

  • The comic book creators organization Broken Frontier is setting up a series of charity auctions, to be held on eBay, of which all proceeds will go directly to the American Red Cross. Auctions will be held next week, starting on Friday, September 9. Comic book creators or publishers are encouraged to donate signed comics, original artwork, and signed scripts. Retailers can donate trade paperbacks, sets of comics, or single issues from stores or private collections. Click on Broken Frontier's Hurricane Katrina Charity thread for more information.

  • Amber Communications Group has announced a national book donation launch for victims of Hurricane Katrina. The group is heading the drive with a large coalition including publishers of Black Issues Book Review, Quarterly Black Review, Just Us Books, Africa World Press, Black Classic Press, among many others. The group is urging all independent African-American publishers, book clubs, self-published authors, literary services, libraries, authors, editors, and publishers at the major publishing houses, to join the donation drive. For more information, contact [email protected] or Heather Covington at [email protected].

  • Linking the musical traditions of Louisiana and Mississippi, Putumayo World Music is donating all proceeds from its albums New Orleans and Mississippi Blues to relief efforts through the end of the year, according to Putumayo's Ray Leone. The proceeds of about $4.00 per CD sold will be split, 75 percent to the Red Cross and 25 percent to the New Orleans Musicians Fund. Both CDs will be stickered indicating the donation; additional stickers are available from Putumayo for existing stock. Putumayo will also be sending an e-mail to our consumer database informing them of the effort.

  • First Book is providing books to children affected by Hurricane Katrina. Every $5 donated to First Book will be matched with one book that will go to children in the devastated areas. Its plan is to distribute books widely to people currently in shelters, school systems taking in displaced children, and the schools and libraries that will need to rebuild their collections.

    Among the many publishers making large corporate donations to relief efforts are Random House, Time Warner, Scholastic, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins' parent company, News Corp. A number of publishers are also making book donations to First Book.

    Regional booksellers associations are also currently planning relief activities for the upcoming trade shows.

Watch for more on relief efforts in upcoming editions of BTW.