Makes you wonder if we aren’t an industry of worry-worts: remember all our handwringing a few years ago about how ebooks were going to be the death of civilization, or at least that part of it which is our industry. (Maybe we should apologize to those partisans of self-publishing for never having regarded that development as an existential threat!) When we went into shutdowns we all sort of knew that different businesses would be differently affected by having to shutter, and now we are able to see more clearly how say restaurants have been worse hit than office-based concerns. Commercial real estate looks like it’s going to be a big loser, but could of course be bailed out by government action. When bookshops had to close and Amazon was prioritizing other stuff, book publishers started wondering if any books would ever make decent sales again. Many launch dates were moved out. Authors agonized about where they’d get their next manuscript placed — and whether they’d ever see a royalty check again.

However, it turns out that books are doing just fine, thank you. Publishers Weekly tells us that print book unit sales increased 2.8% in the first six months of 2020 as against 2019. Some publishers have seen an overall increase in sales revenue for the first six months of the year. Who’d have thunk it?

Part of the credit for buoyant book sales will have to be given to our Washington leadership. As PublishersLunch deadpans on 10 July “Donald Trump remains remarkably effective at boosting the sales of books he tries to block. As of June 30 Simon & Schuster told the court they had printed and started shipping approximately 75,000 copies of Mary Trump’s TOO MUCH AND NEVER ENOUGH — and yesterday in a new affidavit the publisher said they have printed and shipped over 600,000 hardcovers.”

To our (modified) delight, working from home seems to be a perfectly satisfactory way for almost all publishing functions to proceed. As time goes by no doubt people will be issued with better computers for home use, and will gain more and more familiarity with the different types of software that home working calls into play. I assume we will be seeing some fairly radical rearrangements and reduction of office space. Much of this home work could go on indefinitely, maybe with periodic visits to the office. Small apartment; two boisterous kids and a barking dog? Maybe we will have to make some special arrangements.

In the meantime we keep our fingers crossed. New York State, initially the epicenter of the infection, has now gotten the situation under pretty good control — numbers have been way down for two or three weeks, though of course the risk remains.

We now have to worry about how lots of other states have not followed the rigorous social distancing and mask-wearing program that we have as well as our phased reopening plan, coordinated with neighboring states, and have reopened bars and restaurants way too early with resulting immense infection spikes. Ironically Florida, which yesterday registered more new cases that any daily state total, thus far still demands that visiting New Yorkers should quarantine for two weeks upon arrival in Florida. We’d be at greater risk from the locals than they’d be from us — so isolation would in fact be a good idea! We, along with New Jersey and Connecticut, have now imposed similar quarantining requirements on residents of nineteen states. Of course there’s no way to enforce this, so we all remain wary, spaced, and masked.