Ever since the printing press was invented, reproducing books became faster, easier, and cheaper. As a result, more people gained access to literature, letting them read the works that only the rich could afford.
It was a big step in the spreading of ideas, and its availability encouraged people to learn and read more. Sadly, times have changed—the libraries and bookstores that were once brimming with people as much as they’re brimming with books are becoming emptier and emptier.
For the 102-year-old Petersfield Bookshop in Hampshire County, New England, it’s normal for businesses to have a slow and uneventful day. But in this case, the bookshop did not have a single sale. Robert Sansom, 48, expressed his sadness in a tweet. “Not a single book sold today…£0.00. We think this (is) maybe the first time ever.” The owner wrote.
Sansom closed the bookstore, heartbroken and contemplating the future of his shop, which specializes in antique and collectible books. This could be the end of the road—an ending with a low note and zero profit.
But something amazing happened overnight. Sansom’s tweet went viral, capturing the hearts of people online. To his surprise, famous author Neil Gaiman retweeted Sansom’s post. Gaiman’s 2.8 million followers saw the owner’s dilemma. From that point onward, everything changed.
Neil Gaiman promoted the century-old bookstore, and thousands of people began to flock its website, ordering books while others went to the bookstore itself. In less than 24 hours, Petersfield Bookshop’s worst day suddenly became its best.
“Just reading the messages we have received has brought tears,” Sansom said. “We are really aware of how this was a ‘lightning strike’—a piece of luck that couldn’t have been planned (when) there are many others struggling along as we were.”
Two weeks have passed, and Sansom and his co-workers are still working their busiest days in the store. They file hundreds of orders per day and mail them to customers from all over the world. Sansom considers the past weeks as the most intense in his life, both physically and emotionally—but in a good way.
The bookstore became alive with people hustling finding books. Some people even drove for hours just to visit the store. You can hear customers wandering around the shop and talking to each other about their day and how far they’ve come to be there.
After the call to action by Neil Gaiman, Sansom sells 20 to 50 books on a slow day. “Can we just say ‘thank you’ to @neilhimself,” Sansom tweeted along with the photo of the book orders piling. “This is not the day we thought we were going to have but it’s been the best. People are kind and that’s something to never forget…”
It’s so amazing how the simple act of Neil Gaiman retweeting has mobilized thousands of people to save the 102-year-old legacy of Petersfield Bookshop. The store’s twitter account now has 22.1K followers. “We have a voice that we didn’t have before,” Sansom said. “Please, go and find your local indie bookshops, new and secondhand, and buy real books from them. If you don’t, they will just close and disappear.”
Considering how fast this generation is growing up to a highly digitalized age, other unfortunate bookstores might not even see the light of day someday.