Coronavirus live updates: Waterstones and Blackwell's to close all physical bookshops

Coronavirus live updates: Waterstones and Blackwell's to close all physical bookshops

Waterstones and Blackwell's both announced on Sunday (22nd March) that they would close all their physical bookshops on a temporary basis due to the spread of coronavirus.

Over the weekend staff had expressed serious concerns about their own and their customers' safety on social media. Following the announcement of the temporary closure, m.d. James Daunt told The Bookseller: "We've been trying to work out as the days unfold whether there really are some staff who are working who are uncomfortable and unwilling, and we've been very clear throughout that nobody should be working if they find it difficult for whatever reason. There's an indication that some people are coming to work out of duty. and we need to work through this and determine if it's the case.

"We are also recognising that today a number of other retailers have made a similar decision [to close] - Primark, there's a whole sea of them - and we felt we need to take a time out at the very least." 

Blackwell's has announced it will temporarily close all its physical bookshops from the end of Sunday 22nd March. "We have kept our bookshops open as long as possible, because we know how important a role they play to you and your local communities. However, the safety of both our booksellers and customers has to be put first," Blackwell and Prescott wrote.

The Booksellers Association has launched emergency measures to help shops through the next few months, while the Society of Authors has also helped put together a £330,000 fund for writers. Hive is one of a number of companies hoping to help indie bookshops. The site is doubling commissions to independent booksellers during the outbreak.

Meanwhile, the Hay Festival became the latest casualty of the outbreak, with organisers cancelling this year's festival and launching a £150,000 crowdfunder. Director Peter Florence said the need to refund tickets, at a time when a significant outlay had already been made on infrastructure, had put the event in immediate financial jeopardy.

Live updates to follow...

Latest Update, 5pm (Sunday 22nd March): Waterstones and Blackwell's both announce the closure of all physical bookstores on a temporary basis

All Blackwell's stores will close at the end of Sunday 22nd March, while Waterstones branches will close at the end of Monday 23rd March. Read the full story here.

Latest update, 4.45 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): Hay Festival crowdfunder passes £50,000

Some good news ahead of the weekend - the Hay Festival crowdfunding campaign has soared past the £50,000 mark just over 24 hours after it launched. Organisers have a target of £150,000 to help meet infrastructure costs after the event was called off yesterday.

Latest update, 4.10 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): And Other Stories joins effort to help bookshops with subscription pledge

Sheffield-based indie And Other Stories is also trying to help out bookshops during the current challenging period.

The press, run by Stefan Tobler, will donate 20% of payments for new subscriptions to a bookshop of the subscriber's choice. The publisher is also pointing its customers towards local indies on its website.

Its team wrote: “We’ve turned off the direct sale of individual print books from our website (where ebooks and book subscriptions can still be bought). We’ll certainly have our own crisis through much-reduced shop sales this year, but we know bookshops have it worst now. So we’ve decided for now to donate quite a big amount of the margin (what’s left after our direct running costs) on our subscriptions money, 20% of the ‘cover price’."

Latest update, 3.50 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): Hive doubles commissions to indies during outbreak is doubling commissions to independent booksellers during the outbreak following discussions with the BA about how to support stores. Commissions are paid to indies signed up to the network from every sale that goes through the site.

Over the next few months Hive will be offering double the amount of commission on home delivery book sales orders placed through the site. A minimum of 10% of the net value of each sale will be paid.

Where publishers are offering support with additional terms, this will be reflected in commissions being enhanced even further, but will not change the pricing on the site, so it can pass as much as possible to the hive network of independent shops, the firm said. The additional commissions will be backdated to start from 1st March and will continue until further notice.

Nigel Wyman, head of business development at Gardners, said: “We are looking at various ways of supporting booksellers during these troubled times and hope that in some way this helps. We will continue to look at other ways of how we can support over the coming days”

Latest update, 3.30 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): Everyman's Library reveals its books for a crisis

David Campbell, publisher at Everyman’s Library, has drawn up a series of lists of books for readers to escape into over the next few months.

One of them is the helpful “Book for a Crisis” list to help people confront the current situation, either by drawing direct parallels to current events and giving advice on how to handle them, providing existential and philosophical succour during a time of social turbulence, or simply by telling stories of triumph over adversity, as a reminder to readers of the strength of the human spirit.

The list features: The Decameron by Boccaccio, The Plague; The Fall; Exile and the Kingdom and Selected Essays by Albert Camus, If this is a Man; The Truce by Primo Levi, The Complete Works of Michel de Montaigne, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani, On Liberty and Utilitarianism by John Stuart Mill, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, Utopia by Thomas More, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, Confessions by Saint Augustine and The Odyssey by Homer

Latest update, 3 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): Spring Nature launches coronavirus research initiatives

Springer Nature has put initiatives in place to ensure access to research needed to slow the spread of COVID-19.

In a blogpost, c.e.o. Frank Vrancken Peeters said: "In these unprecedented times, the need for continued access to research and learning has never been more important; to maintain access to essential research needed to slow the spread of COVID-19, for researchers to be able to access content remotely as universities are being required to close, and for teachers to ensure that children are able to continue with their studies should they be required to learn from home.  We understand the responsibility on research and education publishers to ensure this can happen and wanted to provide some information as to what we are doing at Springer Nature to help in this time of uncertainty."

The publisher's central resource hub has links to relevant research, with editors selecting relevant content and 12,000 pieces of journal and book content are free to access, and will continue to be so for as long as needed. Nature and Scientific American have also released podcasts from global experts on the pandemic and its development.

It has also created a dedicated federated access page and is working on a change to keep users logged in for 90 days after their initial authentication.

Springer is also working with global organisations to support the sharing of relevant research and data, including supporting the World Health Organisation and the initiative from the White House Office of Science and Technology to make all relevant global research, and data, immediately available in one place via PubMed Central. 

Latest update, 2.15 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): Collins offers books and resources free

Collins is making hundreds of books and resources available for free to teachers and parents ahead of next week's school closures.

Colin Hughes, m.d. of Collins Learning, said: “Teachers and families have long turned to Collins textbooks and workbooks, as well as dictionaries and atlases, to support learning and teaching. So we are naturally glad to be able to continue supporting them through this challenging time.”

The full story is here.

Latest update, 2.05 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): Black Spring offers free books to self-isolating over-70s

Continuing the theme of publishers doing wonderful things during the crisis, the Black Spring Press Group is offering free books to those aged over 70 who have to self-isolate.

They can choose any book from the online bookshop and, as long as it is in stock, Black Spring will happily send it out free of charge. All you need to do, if you are eligible, is email with your name, address, telephone number and date of birth.

Latest update, 1.55 p.m. (Friday, 20th March)Saraband launches Cabin Fever Fables podcast

Booker nominee Graeme Macrae Burnet has launched Saraband's Cabin Fever Fables, a new series of author podcasts designed to ‘”channel the Italian balcony singers and do something creative”.

Hosted by Saraband’s founder and publisher Sara Hunt, the new podcast introduces us to how authors are surviving in isolation, from what they’re reading to what they’re cooking, and reading from their work.

Podcast one launched on 19th March with Burnet reading an extract from his third novel and telling us how he's passing the time as the more stringent isolation measures for Coronavirus social distancing are beginning to kick in.

Other authors signed up to appear are Olga Wojtas for Episode 2, Sue Lawrence, and several more from Saraband’s stable.

Hunt said: "By Wednesday I was aghast at the volume of corporate emails detailing COVID policy in crass, depersonalised ways, and the number of companies laying people off and hastily shedding their ‘liabilities’ – which only last week were their key assets, their people. Meanwhile, at home, people’s lives are unravelling and their fears stoked by those who should be taking responsibility.

"I pictured all our high street booksellers losing their livelihoods, and wanted to highlight bookshops who are able to deliver, as well as authors whose events are cancelled. And I am determined that we go on meeting payroll and that we keep up morale, so I wanted to channel the Italian balcony singers and do something creative. As soon as Cabin Fever Fables was dreamed up, Graeme responded to the challenge immediately, sending his recording the same day – and even though this is a steep learning curve, the response so far is fantastic! Episode 1 is already being rebroadcast on RNIB's Connect Radio."

Latest update, 1.30 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): Three cheers for Orion

If you're pining for the pub in these socially distant days, Orion has stepped in. The publisher is holding a book-themed pub quiz via social media on 24th March from 7.30pm.

Hosted via @OrionBooks, the contest will be presided over by Gary Wigglesworth from Clerkenwell's Betsey Trotwood Book Quiz.

Latest update, 1.15 p.m. (Friday, 20th March): John Boyne short story contest backed by National Book Tokens

National Book Tokens has pledged to match the prize money for a short story competition launched by John Boyne for six to 18-year-olds in Ireland.

Boyne came up with the contest this week in bid to “foster creativity among Irish children and teenagers during this current crisis”.

The prize fund of tokens originally stood at € 3,600 but has now gone up to €7,200 after National Book Tokens doubled the fund. Full details of the competition are on Boyne's website.

Latest update, 11.50 a.m. (Friday, 20th March): Learning and study guide sales up at Waterstones

Following on from James Daunt's comments about Waterstones having a 17% rise in sales across its business on Wednesday (see 9.15 a.m. update), the firm has provided some more detail.

The chain says sales of home learning and children’s study guides are especially high, with book sales remaining strong across the board. It has also vowed to keep its shops open for as long as it is safe to do so.

A spokesperson said: “The safety of our employees and our customers remains our paramount concern. We are continuously assessing the situation and responding to advice as it changes from the government and the Public Health bodies for each of our shops, to ensure our bookshops continue to be a safe environment for all. It is clear that we are in a period of immense social stress for everyone.

"We all know our bookshops play a valuable role within the communities they serve, with books providing much needed respite for hearts and minds at all times, never more needed than in these extraordinary days.  For as long as we can continue to safely keep open our shops, adhering to social distancing procedures and other government guidelines, we will do so. We are grateful for the commitment of our colleagues, and grateful also for the support of our customers in these difficult times.”

Latest update, 11.20 a.m. (Friday, 20th March): Kogan Page put “agile workspace” books into practice

Like everyone else, Kogan Page staff are working from home. M.d. Helen Kogan said: "Kogan Page's move to working remotely was made easier by our investment in technology and because we had moved all of our critical systems and processes to cloud-based systems during the last two years. We've published a lot on the agile workplace so this was our chance to put it in practice ourselves! We're now working on how we recreate a social network.

“The health and wellbeing of our staff is paramount and we want to make sure that they are supported through an incredibly challenging time. We feel that we have been able to minimize disruption by being able to put our plan in place very quickly and so far so good but, of course, it's only the first week and we could be in this for some time now."

Latest update, 11 a.m. (Friday, 20th March): Manchester Literature Festival cancels upcoming events

Manchester Literature Festival has taken the decision to postpone its forthcoming events for April and May 2020 including An Evening with Hilary Mantel on Sunday 19th April.

The festival team is working to reschedule events for Autumn 2020 or Spring 2021 depending on the authors’ availability. All ticket holders will be offered a refund from their box office partners.

Organisers said: “As a registered charity, Manchester Literature Festival relies on ticket sales for a substantial part of its income and to help fund its work with emerging writers. The uncertainty ahead is a significant worry for them as an organisation and for the writers, poets, publishers, venues and partners they work with.”

At present, the main festival dates are still Friday 2nd to Sunday 18th October 2020.

Latest update, 10.45 a.m. (Friday, 20th March): Audible launches free Stories

In recognition that many people will be stuck at home, some with children, Audible has launched its Stories programme, making hundreds of titles available to anyone, anywhere for free.

The titles have been hand-picked by editors and are a mix of education, entertainment, and general-interest titles. Many are suitable for listening with children. There are selections in English, German, French, Japanese, and Italian.

To access the free titles, people need to visit the website

Latest update, 10.25 a.m. (Friday, 20th March): Scholastic warns on coronavirus impact

Scholastic Corporation has said it expects business in the fourth quarter to be affected by coronavirus-related school closures.

The firm said it is taking "aggressive actions to reduce operating expenses throughout the company" as a result, including the temporary closure of US warehouse and distribution centres. 

The comments were made as it reported its third quarter results to 29th February 2020, with revenue up 4% to $373.3m ($360.1m in the third quarter of 2019). More here.

Latest update, 10.15 a.m. (Friday, 20th March): Bookshops shut as publishers go remote

Publishers working from home, bookshops going online only, launches cancelled and fights in the aisles over pasta. It's been a strange, incredibly challenging few days and this week's magazine lead rounds-up how events have played out.

Latest update, 9.45 a.m. (Friday, 20th March): Society of Authors and BA launch funds to help writers and shops

A series of emergency measures have been launched by the trade to support authors and booksellers affected financially as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society, the Royal Literary Fund, English PEN with the T S Eliot Foundation and Amazon UK have joined forces with the Society of Authors to support authors with a £330,000 emergency fund to be distributed as small grants.

Meanwhile the Bookseller’s Association has unveiled a package of special measures for members and will donate £30,000 to the Book Trade Charity, for hardship grants. 

BA m.d. Meryl Halls told members the organisation is currently lobbying the trade and government to “swiftly” improve the financial and cashflow situation for high street booksellers.

The BA Group Board will waive all 2020 subscriptions for independents and National Book Tokens will improve payment terms to all indie members. The BA Group will also donate £30,000 to the Book Trade Charity, with the intention that the money is used for hardship grants for booksellers affected by the current crisis.

Read the full story here.

Latest update, 9.15 a.m. (Friday, 20th March): Waterstones sees "unprecedented" demand as Daunt calls for shops to stay open

Waterstones has seen “unprecedented demand” for books in the past few days and all bookshops should be kept open as a social good, boss James Daunt has said.

Daunt told The Bookseller that overall sales were up 17% on Wednesday as customers bought reading material for the weeks of isolation ahead.

He claimed, like supermarkets, bookshops should be allowed to stay open over the coming months, saying: “In the behaviour that we're experiencing at the moment, demonstrably books are a necessity and, frankly, a social support for people that are going to be spending a lot of time in their homes.”

Daunt said the shops could be run potentially even more safely than supermarkets with all the necessary social distancing precautions taken to keep both staff and customers safe.

He said: “They make sure children are able to to their homelearning and keep reading, and it works for adults as well. If we keep the bookshops open, not just our bookshops but all of them, that is a significant social benefit.”

If some stores were forced to close, Daunt said he did not see an immediate need for potential lay-offs, as he has warned Barnes & Noble staff this week. The nature of where Waterstones stores were located meant staff could often be redeployed and the crisis would mean some “natural depletion” of available staff in any case.

He said: “I don't see it being an imminent need to cut jobs. Clearly though the first priority will be to keep the chain profitable and able to move forward.”

Latest update, 4.30 p.m. (Thursday 19th March): Blackwell's closes three campus bookshops

Blackwell's has closed three of its campus bookshops, with branches in St Andrews, Bristol and Reading all temporarily closing their doors as a result of the outbreak. The retailer also closed its shop in the Wellcome Collection last week. 

Opening hours at some bookshops will also be changed depending on local trade and staffing levels. 

Sales director Phil Henderson said: "We currently have fours shops closed. All our other campus and high street stores remain trading, as of course does our website. Some shops are amending trading hours to take account of local trading conditions and available staffing levels based on the latest government and Public Health England advice. 

"We are all focused on keeping our customers and people safe and maintaining Blackwell’s service and experience to our customers through this time."

As social distancing is ramped up, Blackwell's says footfall has held up "pretty well". Henderson added: "Shop by shop there are some ups and downs, but overall we're pleased with the number of customer visits we have seen this week and proud of the way the shops have managed to serve them."

Latest update, 3.55 p.m. (Thursday 19th March): Literary agent Simon Trewin volunteers as book delivery boy

Pictured: literary agent Simon Trewin, local resident and customer of the oldest independent bookshop in south-east London–Sydenham’s Kirkdale Booksturns up for his first day at work as their volunteer book delivery boy. He is pictured with bookseller Freddie Butler-de Lacy with the first two boxes of online and phone orders ready for dispatch.

Trewin said: "Kirkdale Books is a major part of our creative community here in Sydenham and Forest Hill and it is great to be able to help them keep south London reading!

"Think of a book you need and call them—they have a huge stock plus they can still get next-day orders from their wholesalers Gardners.

"When the book is packaged up I will get a call, pick it and then pop it through your letter box. No touching needed!"

Kirkdale Books is contactable at or via 020 8778 4701.

The shop is the latest indie to offer home delivery as retailers adapt to the crisis. Glasgow’s indie LGBTQIA+ bookshop Category Is Books has closed its physical premises but is offering to deliver locally by skateboard and bike. In North Yorkshire, The Stripey Badger has set up a book delivery service for anyone within a 10-mile radius of the store, with a complimentary scone thrown in with every order. 

Latest update, 3.20 p.m. (Thursday 19th March): Hay Festival appeals for emergency funds after coronavirus cancellation

The Hay Festival has been cancelled owing to the coronavirus outbreak with organisers saying it is now in “immediate financial jeopardy” and has 10 days to raise emergency funds.

Director Peter Florence said last week the festival would still go ahead. However, following the government's new public health guidelines, there was little choice but to cancel the event.

Refunds for tickets are being made available but, with 70% of income derived from tickets and sales, the cancellation comes at the time of “maximum exposure” for the orgnaistion, which had committed large infrastructure costs, it said.

A £150,000 GoFundMe page has now been set up to help support the event's immediate future. Organisers said this would provide an emergency fund, contributing to a larger fundraising target. 

Read the full story here

Latest update, 3.15 p.m. (Thursday 19th March): Bath bookshop Mr B’s Emporium moves to “non-contact open”

Mr B’s Emporium owner and former BA president Nic Bottomley says from tomorrow (Friday 20th March) his bookshop will be “non-contact open”. Stressing the shop is not closed, Bottomley said:  “By that we mean that we are fully ready and available and working hard to fulfil all of your book needs as ever, but with no customer access to our physical shop floor for the time being. 

“We have not taken the decision to restrict access to the shop lightly, and we hope it won’t be for long, but we do so in light of current government advice about public movement and behaviour and with everyone’s health, wellbeing and peace of mind as our primary concern. We recognise that we’re a retail space that people love to come and visit and spend time in, but right now (though it simultaneously feels so wrong) we feel that it is right to temporarily dissuade you from coming to the shop in person and instead to connect and shop with us in other ways.

“Our booksellers are all still working and will now focus all of their attention on looking after you and your book orders without face-to-face contact.” 

Now the bookshop will focus on online, email and phone business and plans to launch a YouTube channel. Full details here.

Latest update, 3 p.m. (Thursday 19th March): Scholastic creates Hunger Games prequel campaign for coronavirus-hit indies

Scholastic UK has created a pre-order campaign for Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games prequel that it says could drive trade to indie bookshops during the coronavirus outbreak.

The publisher has created a pre-order social graphic for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and is offering personalisation for any independent bookshop to include their online or telephone ordering details.

Indie orders of more than 20 copies will also be supported with a free tote bag giveaway featuring the iconic Mockingjay and snake logo. Read the full story here

Latest update, 2 p.m. (Thursday 19th March): French Culture Minister announces €5m subsidy for publishers, authors and booksellers

French Culture Minister Franck Riester, who was diagnosed with coronavirus on 9th March, has announced a series of measures to help the French culture community, including "an emergency subsidy of €5m to cover the immediate difficulties facing publishers, authors and booksellers." The governmental National Book Centre (Centre National du Livre, CNL) will postpone deadlines for loan repayments, and "will pay special attention" to authors losing income because of cancelled literary events.

Reporting by Barbara Casassus.

Latest update, 12.10 p.m. (Thursday 19th March): Icon brings forward publication of Outbreaks and Epidemics by Meera Senthilingam

Icon is bringing forward publication of Outbreaks and Epidemics: Battling Infection from Measles to Coronavirus by Meera Senthilingam, former international health editor at CNN. 

Icon was due to publish in June, but will now publish on 2nd April.  

In the book, the author surveys the infectious diseases we face in the modern world. The book examines why certain diseases continue to persist, why some are making a comeback, why resistance is an issue and why new and emerging infections, such as coronavirus, are a particular threat.

Publisher Duncan Heath said: "This important book puts Covid-19 into the broader context of humanity’s ongoing battle against infection. It examines the successes and failures of the past, how we are confronting the challenges of today, and our chances of eradicating disease in the future."       

Latest update, 11.45 a.m. (Thursday 19th March): National Literacy Trust launches online learning zone as schools close

The National Literacy Trust has launched new online zone for parents to engage children and support learning at home, with author videos, poetry workshops and illustration sessions, as schools close across the UK. 

The free resource is designed to help parents seeking ideas and guidance for activities to engage children at home and benefit their reading, writing and language development and draws on the charity's partnerships with teachers, authors, publishers and educational organisations. 

Resources and activities for families to enjoy together at home include: Small Talk videos to help parents chat, play and read with their young child; tips for enjoying audiobooks as a family; a guide to building a reading den at home; a Reading Miles Global Challenge to encourage children to read around the world; activity sheets based on popular children’s books, including Where’s Wally?, as well as learning activities featuring CBeebies characters; author videos, including live stories with author Steve Antony, draw-along sessions with illustrator Rob Biddulph and poetry workshops with Sarah Crossan. Read the full story here

Latest update, 10 a.m. (Thursday 19th March): Waterstones bookshops "open for business" 

Waterstones says the majority of its bookshops are "open for business" with four campus bookshops at Hull University, University of East Anglia, Durham University and Exeter University temporarily closed. 

The chain says it has changed its café service to takeaway only and senior management continues to monitor the situation. 

A spokeswoman for Waterstones said: "Thankfully, at the moment our customers continue to shop with us, which is evidence of the enduring resilience of books, even during these exceptionally trying times, and testament to all of the incredible booksellers across the business. Currently our bookshops remain open for business and we are following the precautions and advice set out by the government to ensure our shops continue to be a safe environment for all.

"Of course, our number one priority remains the safety of our customers and booksellers, and our senior management team continuously monitors the situation and if the advice from the UK authorities does change we will act upon it and immediately update staff and customers. We are in communication with all employees regarding coronavirus and regularly issue up to date guidance to staff in line with government advice."

Latest update, 9.30 a.m. (Thursday 19th March): Brideshead Festival postponed

Vicky Howard (nee Barnsley) has announced the Brideshead Festival, which was due to take place from 26th-28th June, has been postponed.

Howard said: "In the interest of the health and the wellbeing of our participants, visitors, employees and partners, given the current situation with Covid-19, we have taken the decision to postpone The Brideshead Festival which was scheduled for June 2020.  We will continue to monitor the situation in order to decide when the festival will be reinstated.  In the meantime, please refer to for further updates."

Masterminded by former HarperCollins c.e.o. Barnsley, the event was planning to mark the 75th anniversary of the publication of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Brideshead Revisited (Penguin), bringing together the worlds of literature, film, TV and heritage at Castle Howard, the stately home in York that became synonymous with Brideshead Revisited

Latest update, 9.a.m. (Thursday 19th March): Hachette c.e.o. David Shelley says firm has seen an increase in book orders from China in letter to authors

Shelley says the firm has seen an increase in book orders from China once again after "several months of very low orders" as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. In a letter to authors, illustrators and translators, Shelley acknowledged these "very uncertain and unsettling times" but reassured them that there are positive signs. 

He said: "This is clearly going to be a very challenging time for all of us but I want you to know that we are all here to support you and your work through it, and that we have a terrific infrastructure and team in place to do so. To end on a hopeful note, we have just started receiving increased book orders from China again after several months of very low orders—so it feels hopeful that they are out of the worst of the virus, and that at some point we will be too."

China, where the coronavirus outbreak first started, is now reporting minimal new cases of the infection, except for among those coming in from abroad.

Shelley said e-books and audiobooks are yet to be affected by the outbreak, with the supply chain operating as normal. He added: "It is speculation, but I would guess that as social distancing carries on, more people will be gravitating towards these formats so we are making sure all relevant publications are well optimised and prominent in online stores."

Hachette's Didcot warehouse, the Hely Hutchinson Centre, remains operational with "special measures" to keep staff safe, including keeping two metres apart, special deep cleans at night and throughout the day, and introducing new distancing measures for any visitors to the site and delivery vans.

Shelley added Hachette is also also experiencing good service from printers in the UK and abroad, and the printing of books is "not currently affected significantly". 

As bookshops across the country consider how to trade during the outbreak and a decrease in footfall on the high street, Shelley said Hachette has "experienced a slowdown in orders from UK travel retailers in airports and railway stations" and seen "an understandable drop in orders from retailers in countries very affected by Covid-19 including Italy, France and Spain".

He added: "There is the very real possibility that some UK bookshops might at some point have to close for a while because of Covid-19. And we have anecdotal reports of online retailers and supermarkets being so swamped by demand for essential items that their distribution centres are experiencing delays and problems, and that books and other goods are being temporarily deprioritised."

Every new publication is being looked at on a case-by-case basis in terms of maximising sales and ensuring coverage as publicity tours are postponed during the outbreak. 

Shelley said: "Things are changing very rapidly, so whilst all this is accurate as of the time of writing, it could well change in days or even hours.

"The main thing I really wanted to communicate to you is that everyone here comes in to work every day because they are passionate about books – and this remains the case during these scary times. Everyone involved in the creation, publication and distribution of your books will be available as normal to speak with on the phone or on videoconference, and I will be really happy to answer any questions you may have, as will the managing directors of our publishing divisions and the publishers and editors within them. We are all doing everything we can to try to ensure readers are able to access your books in whatever forms they choose, and to support all the bookshops and retailers we work with during times that will be incredibly tough for many of them."