It is strange that during a time when we should all be social distancing; we have never felt a stronger sense of community and togetherness. People are actually saying hello in London, neighbours are smiling at each other and people are finally turning to their local independent shops and supporting their local community with food banks, deliveries and rainbows painted in windows or on pavements. All it took was a global pandemic.
But now we must turn your attention to another pillar of the community, sometimes disguised with a café or an event space for children and tired parents – the wonders that are Independent Bookshops. In 1995 we had over 1,894 independent bookshops across the UK, in 2016 this dropped to a low of just 867 and we fear depending on the way the economy will go, this number may drop again if we are not careful. Like with everything right now, life seems to be performing at a slower pace. Why then rely on Amazon Prime? Can you really not wait an extra few days for a delivery, if it means possibly giving your local indie a helping hand? Bake another loaf of sourdough, go out for another government approved walk, and buy from your local independent, because let’s face it they are the ones paying their taxes. During Coronavirus those stores that are able have been ingenious in providing ways to keep us well read, through home deliveries, online events and hilarious social posts which may or may not include skateboarding dogs. Don’t let their hard work go unrewarded.
Indies are not just bookshops, they are community hubs, a haven on a rainy day, a fountain of knowledge and also a friend. Not many shops greet you with a cuppa, a reading recommendation and stimulating conversation while you peruse the shelves. Whether you are a regular or a newcomer an independent will treat you the same, with open arms. Mr B’s Reading Emporium in Bath will even provide you with a bibliotherapy appointment at their reading spa, where you get a cup of tea, slice of cake and a list of books catered to your reading tastes – what more could you want?
The history found in these shops is a testament to their durability, having converted local landmarks such as a train stations like Barter Books in Northumberland and even boats like Word on the Water in Kings Cross these shops are ingenious in their creativity. Sometimes they are even specialised focusing on feminist texts such as Persephone Books in Holborn, political texts like Word Power Books in Edinburgh, LGBTQA+ titles found in Gay is the Word in Edinburgh or Children’s books like Octavia’s Bookshop in Cirencester, the list is endless as is their catalogues. So don’t give up on them, support them as they have certainly supported you!
To this day, indie bookshops will always hold a special place in our hearts, and we love nothing more than losing hours exploring their shelves and having an internal debate about how much we can carry home, and what is a ‘reasonable’ amount to spend on books on pay day. We just hope when this is all over, we will still have the chance to get lost in our favourite stores. To all you booksellers, indies and small businesses thank you for providing books for us in lockdown and always!