Bookselling in a Time of Crisis and Beyond

By Molly Harrison | Thursday, July 2, 2020

It takes a special kind of person to be an independent bookseller. The job requires large amounts of passion, creativity, hard work, people skills, tenacity and resiliency, and at no time has that been more apparent than during the pandemic.

During the COVID-19 quarantines, many people were saved from the madness of social isolation by a bookseller. People around the country reached out to their favorite small bookstores for books, puzzles and toys more than ever this year (especially when a certain online retailer deemed books and puzzles as nonessential for shipping). But even more important than the ability to ship is the small bookstores’ ability to help their customers shop.

An independent bookstore is more than a place to procure items. The people inside that store, the booksellers themselves, are the travel guides to the world of books. Tell them what you want – a pleasant escape from reality (yes, please!), a view of the world from someone else’s perspective, education on a certain topic, guidance from an expert, something beautiful to look at – and they’ll take you where you need to go. A good bookseller has the ability to hand-sell books, and it’s a part of the job that they enjoy. Matching the person to the perfect book is a skill that they’ve honed over years of experience.

On the Outer Banks we are lucky to have several independent bookstores – one or more on every island! It’s not this way in every town, and for that reason many people see the Outer Banks as a literary community. The Outer Banks’ bookstores were essential during the pandemic, not only to local residents but also to people from all over the country. Shoppers who had visited the stores in the past when on vacation remembered the Outer Banks’ bookstores and knew they could get the personalized service and attention they needed from these booksellers.

Local bookstores Duck’s Cottage Coffee and Books in Duck, Downtown Books in Manteo, Buxton Village Books in Buxton on Hatteras Island and Books To Be Red on Ocracoke Island rose to the occasion to help their customers. They offered phone and email consultations, recommendations on social media, online sales, curbside pick-up and shipping around the country. Some even offered local delivery. From entertaining online author events to essential school-book deliveries to the last-minute shipping of gifts, they went, and continue to go, above and beyond to support authors and their customers and keep people reading. Downtown Books and Buxton Village Books joined forces with this year in an effort to offer an easier way for the customers to shop.

If you love to read or know someone who does, you owe it to yourself to meet the independent booksellers on the Outer Banks. The women in charge of Duck’s Cottage Coffee and Books, Downtown Books, Buxton Village Books and Books To Be Red will guide you to exactly what you want and need.

Books To Be Red
34 School Road, Ocracoke • (252) 928-3936

Buxton Village Books
47918 Highway 12, Buxton • (252) 995-4240

Duck's Cottage
1240 Duck Road, Duck • (252) 261-5510 •

Downtown Books
103 Sir Walter Raleigh Street, Manteo • (252) 473-1056 •

About the Author Molly Harrison
Molly Harrison is managing editor at OneBoat, publisher of She moved to Nags Head in 1994 and since then has made her living writing articles and creating publications about the people, places and culture of the Outer Banks. When not working she practices and teaches yoga and spends as much time as possible outside and in or on the water with her husband and two children.