China, Italy, Denmark, Germany and now Iran are among the countries tentatively allowing bookstores to re-open as lockdown rules are eased, but we’re still a long way from any return to pre-pandemic bookstore life, if such a thing is even attainable anymore.

The Iran shutdown of almost two months hit the Iranian publishing sector hard, although specific figures are hard to come by.

Seyyed Abbas Salehi, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, reported last week that the Covod-19 crisis, which hit Iran earlier than most of the world, cost the art and culture sectors around $230 million, but offered no specific breakdown for books.

With 83,000 cases and 5,200 dead, Iran started out the second hardest hit country after China, but a strict lockdown implemented early helped flatten the curve, while west European countries and the US surged ahead.

As this post goes live Iran is still seeing almost one hndred deaths a day from Covid-19, but as elsewhere in the world, it is slowly re-opening the economy, starting with low-risk economic activities such as bookstores.

It’s not clear if there are any specific restrictions other than to observe the standard health protocols in place, but each store will need permission from the Health Ministry before serving the public again. Any bookstore owner that does not get prior approval faces prosecution.

As the Tehran Times notes,

The shutdown of bookstores following the spread of COVID-19 across Iran pushed many people into using online stores offering audiobooks and e-books.

There are two main ebook stores in Iran and as reported here at TNPS, the largest, Fidibo, saw a 4-fold increase in downloads as lockdown began.

Fidibo in 2018 launched the world’s first Persian-language ereader. The store carries about 41,000 ebooks and audiobooks.

While consumers will no doubt welcome the news that bookstores are reopening, it’s likely most will be wary of heading to bookstores for a while yet given the still high numbers dying each day, and roughly 1,000 new cases being reported every day.

The light at the end of Iran’s coronavirus tunnel may be shimmering on the horizon, but difficult times will continue a long while yet.