THIS week, a book I’d written that was meant to be published in June was postponed until April next year. It was a decision that I’d been expecting. The book, Bespoke, is about the language and history of professional cycling and the launch date was meant to coincide with this year’s Tour de France. With no cycling going on until September at the earliest, delaying the date was inevitable.

The discussion I had with my editor has been mirrored many times over, not just in publishing, but across record companies, TV stations and film studios. Across culture, the question remains the same: is it better to launch now, or wait until the pandemic is over? Everyone is trying different strategies: with cinemas closed, some films have been released online instead; with TV, shows such as Killing Eve and Normal People have been pushed forward in the schedules while everyone is stuck at home.

For publishers, two basic questions have been paramount. How do you publicise the book? And how can people buy it? The answer to the former has seen a shift to the Internet with a number of online events and readings: the Stay At Home online literary festival, which ran earlier this month, had thousands of book lovers logging in; early next month sees the equally online Big Book Weekend festival, supported by BBC Arts.

Buying books has proved to be a bigger problem. Visiting your local bookshop has not been an option, yet purchasing online has proved surprisingly hit and miss. The hit has been Hive, the online way to support independent bookstores, despatching books within 24 hours. The miss has been Amazon. Despite making a reported $11,000 a second during the pandemic, Amazon has prioritised other parts of its business, moving its focus to selling more ‘essential’ items.

Although Amazon started out as a bookstore, books have taken a back seat. Publishers have found the ‘buy’ buttons from their new titles missing: books Amazon do have in stock take a delayed time to arrive. Yet as one literary agent noted on Twitter, other non-essential items such as badminton sets could still be ordered for next-day delivery.

How essential are books? For anyone stuck in lockdown, reading can offer many things: a chance to escape, to lose yourself, to laugh, to learn, to understand. And while Amazon might not class books as essential, plenty of others do. This week, as Germany and Italy have begun lifting their lockdown restrictions, among the first tranche of shops allowed to re-open have been their bookshops.

Britain remains at least several weeks off restrictions starting to be lifted here, but when we do reach that point, I hope we follow suit.