Doing Good by Reading Books

Have a lot of time on your hands suddenly? Need to escape for an hour or six into another world? Seeking creative inspiration at this unexpected social/life turning point?

Books are a magical solution for so many of these things. Here’s how to get your fix of great reading material without going out in public and while supporting the economic future of the book industry—authors, publishers, bookstores, distributors, libraries.

Put your book purchases to work

The worst way to do that is buying books through Amazon. We’ve always said that, and yeah, we have an axe to grind, but also—a book bought through Amazon results in the lowest possible payments to authors and publishers. Amazon has lured MANY publishers to rely on them solely for book sales—and has now completely stopped ordering books… which they’re framing as part of the current crisis, but is part of a disinvestment strategy they began last November. And now… the corporation run by the richest person in the world is now soliciting donations from the public to help pay delivery drivers? No thanks. /end rant.

Anyway, want to maximize every dollar you spend on books? The best ways to do that are the ways the most support authors and independent publishers. Like these many options:

  • Buy books and ebooks directly from the authors/artists themselves—they will get 100% of your dollars
  • Buy books and ebooks directly from the publishers—this ensures the best possible author royalty
  • Support your local independent bookstore—many are still operating with skeleton crews and you can phone in an order or place one online
  • Check out ebooks and audiobooks from your local library—you pay nothing (well, you pay at tax time, now likely delayed…) and it’s good financial support for publishers and authors. Libby is a great, easy-to-use app for this purpose, and many library systems are granting instant library cards if you live in the area
  • is a new force in the market that offers new books at a sustainable discount. They donate 10% of every sale to independent bookstores, and have a 25% affiliate program (which they upped to 30% during the pandemic). (Check out Microcosmnoauts Elly and Lydia’s fiction recs on our Bookshop page.)
  • We’re also still shipping our big selection of books and zines and such from (you can select “pick up in store” shipping and we’ll bring your purchase outside for a no-contact handoff)

Pay it forward

Got enough to read but want to help someone else out with a pile of books?

  • Become a Book Benefactor — nominate someone (including yourself!) to receive a free stack of curated books. And/or just donate money to help make these book wishes come true! This program is run by Danny Caine of Raven Book Store (who also happens to be the author of How to Resist Amazon & Why).
  • Help prisoners get books. Because that enforced isolation just got a lot worse. Microcosm receives book requests from prisons daily. Help us get those books where they’re most needed.

Help out even if you have enough books

  • Got some money to donate and want to get the most economic uplift for your buck? We recommend supporting BINC, aka the Book Industry Charitable Foundation, a long-running, effective mutual aid organization that helps booksellers bounce back from unexpected hardships. They’ve long covered unexpected medical bills and helped with rent and utility payments, and they’re primed and ready to respond to the current crisis and its widespread layoffs and closures.
  • Don’t need more books? Get some merch from your favorite bookstore and wear your allegiance proudly! We’re partial to the brilliant designs of Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, NY—bonus, half the proceeds from their new “Stay Safe, Read Books” t-shirt go to BINC!
  • It’s a great time to ask for book recommendations, and share recos and reviews of books you love with your networks online. Let’s start a global conversation about books and never stop!

Stay connected, even without IRL events

  • Participate in Is Press’s virtual Quaranzine Fest! It’s not too late to make some zines to “table” during #quaranzinefest — or just tune in on social media April 4-5 and get ready to discover some great new super-independent reads!
  • Listen in! We especially recommend Our Opinions Are Correct, the excellent podcast of sci fi authors Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz. Keep an eye on Charlie Jane’s twitter feed for even more ways to support indie bookstores.
  • There are so many storytimes on social media and youtube that we can’t even begin to list them all! One option: you can tune into Dr. Faith reading aloud from her own books (or check out the archives) every day from 5-6pm central time on the Microcosm Facebook page.
  • Join fellow introverts to read quietly together but apart at a Silent Book Club virtual meetup.
  • Take an online writing class! Join Microcosm’s publicity champion Lydia in taking Nisi Shawl and K. Tempest Bradford’s latest Writing the Other course that starts at the beginning of April.

Want more of an update on how and what Microcosm is doing to ride out the pandemic? Check out our latest news (plus a bunch of affordable bundles of project-ful books).