As the war against the Zika virus enters its second week, small- and medium-sized businesses across the country are starting to make a profit online.
At least 20,000 businesses in the U.S. are online and growing online, according to the Small Business Administration.
In New York City alone, online bookstores now sell more than 500,000 books per month.
But the battle against Zika is proving tougher than anyone expected, and some small businesses are having to adjust to the new reality.
At the Small Booksellers Association’s Annual Convention in San Diego, Mark Sauer, executive director of the association, described how he set up his own online bookstore after learning that Amazon wasn’t allowing him to sell books to customers on its Kindle platform.
When he told Amazon that his business was going to be banned, Amazon refused to refund the cost of the books, Sauer said.
“They said they were going to charge you, but they’re not going to give you the money back,” he said.
Sauer has since started his own small bookstore and says he made at least $1,500 online after finding out about the ban.
“We’re really proud of the work we’ve done,” he told Recode.
“It’s really helped us build our business and it’s also helped us raise funds.
We are making a living.”
Sauer said the ban on online bookselling at Amazon was particularly difficult for small businesses because it’s often the case that small businesses have to do more work online than larger businesses, such as bookstores.
“It’s not a big deal for us because we have such a small footprint,” he explained.
“And so if it’s the only way we can sell books, we’re doing the work.”
Amazon has not responded to Recode’s request for comment on this story.
The Small Business Booksellings Association, which is backed by Walmart and the National Retail Federation, is urging businesses to embrace the new economic realities facing them.
It’s a strategy that’s been proven successful for online booksellers such as Sauer’s, but some are not so lucky.
The SBA said that about 20,100 small businesses were hit with the Zika ban and that about 30,000 are still being impacted.
Small businesses have seen a steep decline in book sales in the past few years as consumers increasingly turn to online retailers to buy books.SBA President Mark Schuster told Recoder that in 2016, online retailers accounted for about 14 percent of all book sales, up from about 10 percent a year earlier.
In 2017, the number fell to less than 4 percent, he said, citing the Zika crisis.
“Small business owners are going to have to start thinking twice about whether they want to be the one to get into that marketplace,” Schuster said.
Amazon’s ban on selling online books in New York is the latest in a string of actions the company has taken against businesses that sell online.
Last month, Amazon banned several large bookseller companies from selling books online, including Barnes & Noble, B&N, and New York Public Library.
Amazon also banned booksellership in the popular online retailer’s online bookstore.
In June, Amazon shut down the Amazon Marketplace, a marketplace that offered a variety of e-books, e-book content, and audiobooks.
In September, Amazon closed Amazon Publishing, a business that provided a number of books and magazines to local libraries.
Amazon has also banned a number small businesses from selling online, such the popular “Little Things” podcast, the largest podcast in Amazon’s catalog.
Amazon shut the podcast down in January.