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Keeping it Local – Online or Face-to-Face

  24 Nov '20   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Supporting our Booksellers, Writers and all in Publishing

Last week, the Guardian newspaper reported authors coming together in a ‘thunderclap of support’ to encourage readers to buy local or online in support of booksellers, writers and publishers.  In the first lock-down, way back in the Spring, many smaller businesses were under-prepared for what was to come. Some local bookshops had little or no presence online as they knew their strength was in the local setting, the destination store visit, the personal recommendation. They could not compete online with the Amazons of this world.  This time it is different. Go online tonight and you will find new and impressive bookshop sites from our favourite booksellers right across the UK. Facebook streams are bursting with information and recommendations (such as this one from Far From the Madding Crowd) and Instagram too, such as Portobello bookshop (which, in real time sits just off the beach near Edinburgh) who posted as England went into lockdown:

Bookshops across England will sadly be closing their doors again tomorrow. Sending our thoughts to them all, and you can still buy from many including our friends  @bookbugsdragontales  @storytellers.inc  @roundtablebooks  @blue_bear_bookshop  @samreadbookseller  @forumbookscorbridge 📚❤️

(This week, the Portobello team asked illustrator Eilidh Muldoon to create a Christmas window for them. The result is stunning.)

Click on the names of any of the bookshops mentioned below to go straight to their website:

Topping, with its oak-shelf-lined stores now in Bath, Edinburgh, Ely and St Andrews, have upgraded their site and invited authors to give readers their recommendations. 

Daunt Books, from their original store in Marylebone High Street and now stretching to NINE shops, are firmly online with their GORGEOUS book bundles 

The Highland Bookshop with its shop offering the full range – how they have had time to rework their site while opening a new arts and cinema centre in the town of  Fort William is beyond me! And that cinema too is looking stunning.

The Watermill – a sister shop to the Highland Bookshop and a destination in its own right, have again captured the character of the shop online, offering not only books but limited edition prints from their gallery.

Filled with the sights and familiar branding of their shop, Mainstreet Trading in the Scottish Borders have a site crammed full of curated lists and staff picks, all subject areas, book subscriptions, cards… and they don’t restrict themselves to the printed word, deli produce and gift boxes for children, hand made soaps… And just look at these Christmas windows!

Then there is the simple but so easy to use site of the Edinburgh Bookshop – basically, tell us what you want and we’ll track it down! Who can argue with that?

And the same city’s radical bookshop, Lighthouse, was voted Best Independent Bookshop in Scotland this year and its site shows why.

Far From the Madding Crowd in Linlithgow, offered Christmas shopping right up to the point that new restrictions came into force. Now they are offering click and collect , free local delivery as well as orders supplied through their site to anywhere in the UK for £3.

Atkinson Pryce, like so many, are closed for browsing due to Covid restrictions but

 ‘are open in every other way… Just ring or email us to place your order for doorstep collection, local delivery or posting – don’t hesitate to get in touch and we will help in any way we can’

They also offer a browsing newsletter which is really excellent. AND have dedicated collection times for orders in their village hall. Perfect service!

Jaffe and Neale’s site (their shop is in the Cotswolds) is promising click and collect but also linking customers through to the highly browsable bookshop.org. New to the UK, this site promises a more ethical experience than Amazon and supports independent bookshops by giving them a decent cut from every single book sold. Not seen this yet? Do try it out. But be warned, browsing the site becomes an addictive and expensive habit for booklovers!

And of course our friends at Forum Books just over the Border in Corbridge. They have teamed up with three other leading independents Linghams, Booksish & Booka Bookshop to produce a programme of ‘At Home with..’ virtual events. Read all about them at 4Indies.

More independents are listed in our Book Week Scotland post which you can read here.

What is independent and what is not? Well, most would agree that Waterstones with almost 300 stores across the UK, is not independent but in each of their stores, the booksellers who work there have the same attitude toward books and literacy and caring concern for readers as those who work in the often smaller ‘independents’. Don’t ignore the great work that they do in their communities and in larger cities. Too often we take them for granted but the reality is that we want every one of their branches to remain open and every bookseller to keep their job – so let’s get behind them. Readers and writers and publishers need Waterstones as much as Waterstones need us.

Most of the stores above offer a weekly newsletter and some are doing programmes of virtual events with favourite authors. Many offer the online Christmas Books catalogue curated by the Booksellers Association, bursting with recommendations.

So… visit our booksellers in the virtual realms and – when and where you can – do so safely in the high street and keep our real-life, bricks and mortar bookshops alive. Buy here on our site online, buy through bookshop.org or buy through an independent and you will keep small businesses going at this difficult time (and tick off that Christmas list!).

PS: Apologies to those we have not managed to mention – we love you all!

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