Penguin Random House UK c.e.o. Tom Weldon says the company is actively seeking ways of helping struggling booksellers during the coronavirus lockdown.
In an open letter posted on the publisher's website, Weldon also announced a change to the company's volunteering policy, allowing employees to take three hours a week to help during the crisis.
Weldon, whose company has backed a trade crowdfunding campaign for struggling booksellers, described bookshops as a “national and local treasure” that must be supported.
He wrote: “We are coming together with partners and colleagues across the industry to support and protect our publishing ecosystem and retail landscape. We are in active conversations with the Booksellers Association to discuss practical solutions for supporting our retail partners.”
On volunteering, he said: “We’ve adapted our approach to volunteering to enable colleagues to give up to three hours of work time a week to support people affected by the crisis, whether that’s helping out a vulnerable neighbour in their community, volunteering remotely for a charity, or responding to the government’s call for NHS Volunteer Responders."
Weldon also wrote of increasing accessibility to the publisher's content with new initiatives. He said: “From livestreamed author events such as ‘At Home with Penguin’, a chance for readers to connect with our best-loved authors, to dedicated content on our website, penguin.co.uk, we will be even more creative and imaginative about how to connect with readers during this time.
“We will make our books accessible to those in greater need, focusing our efforts on the isolated and vulnerable, and families who are relying on food banks. We’ll be working in partnership with social enterprise Neighbourly to re-distribute books to grassroots community causes across the UK.”
He also pointed to Ladybird and Puffin Schools resources and content to support home learning for primary school children.
Weldon said: “This past week, we’ve witnessed the most dramatic changes to day-to-day life that most of us have seen in our lifetimes. This crisis, and its often devastating consequences, has profoundly touched and affected each and every one of us, and the reverberations will be felt long after we make it through the other side.
“As a company, the outbreak has obviously had a significant effect on the way we work on a day-to-day basis, and protecting the health and wellbeing of our colleagues has always been our most important priority.”