As we continue to hunker down at home, the benefits of having a good book to escape into has never been more apparent. At the same time, with so many bookshops closed, sourcing them has rarely been trickier.
Luckily, there is a wealth of companies and websites rising to the challenge and dreaming up inventive new ways to sell books.
So where are the best places to stock up on books online? Here's our guide:
Hive is an online network of hundreds of independent bookshops up and down the country. Founded in 2011, its ethos is to 'support those independent shops so they don’t disappear' by giving them a cut of every book the site sells. Through its website, you can buy bestsellers, classics, prize winners, e-books, DVDs, stationery and more. A percentage of the money you spend will either go to your nearest independent bookshop, or, if you prefer, to another one of your choosing. Note: Due to high demand during the lockdown, Hive is currently only taking orders of one book at a time.
Wordery's mission, they say, is to provide an 'alternative haven to buy the books you love for the lowest prices', offering more than 10 million books with free delivery to almost anywhere in the world. It was set up in 2012 by five friends fed up with how, as they saw it, 'online retail had diminished the enjoyment of buying books, that it had lost its soul.' Selling all genres, from fiction to non-fic, children's literature to educational books, it is now one of the fastest-growing online booksellers.
Save Your Bookstore app
It has never been more crucial to support independent bookshops than now. Many are facing a struggle for survival during the lockdown, and being forced to migrate all their operations online. There are a number of ways you can find your local independent store, and the new app Save Your Bookstore is one. It connects book lovers to their local indie bookshop, offering deals and discounts 'for your quarantine needs'.
The Booksellers Association indie bookshop finder
Another great way to track down your nearest independent bookshop. Like the Save Your Bookstore app, the British Booksellers Association website has a handy search function through which to find your local indie, wherever you live in the UK. You can limit your search to any category of bookshop you like, from independent to chain, children's to Christian, as well its distance from where you live.
Alibris UK is an online book retailer that connects independent booksellers across the world with readers in their local areas. Specialising in textbooks, second-hand, out-of-print, foreign language, and hard-to-find titles, as well as the latest bestsellers, they say 'you'll discover rare editions of childhood favourites, novels signed by respected authors, the latest bestsellers, and more.'
Buy directly from publishers
Publishers across Britain have beefed up their online operations during the current crisis, including Penguin.co.uk, so readers can buy books straight from source. Many smaller, independent specialist publishers are also turning to selling their books direct to book lovers, such as Sandstone Press, which publishes 'inspiring books by innovative authors', or fiction, nature and culture book publisher Saraband.
Best Book Price is a book price comparison website that connects readers to retailers to help find the cheapest books on the market. You just tell them the book you're looking for, and they tell you what it currently costs at the top UK shops, including postage charges, for the best bargains. They will link you not only to the big online retailers such as Amazon or Waterstones, but also to independent aggregators like Hive (mentioned above).
Selling books since 1846, Blackwell's specialises primarily in academic and non-fiction titles, though it has branched into the bestseller market in recent years to compete with the bigger high street outlets. Now you can buy almost anything, from Bernardine Evaristo's Booker-winning Girl, Woman, Other to That's Not My Sloth by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells.
The high street giants
Waterstones, Foyles, WH Smiths and other high street booksellers have ramped up their online offerings recently, and offer a colossal range of books, across all genres. Like all other online retailers, delivery times may be a little slower than usual during the lockdown.
If you don't want to wait for a book to be posted to your home, you can instantly download an eBook, so long as you have a e-reader access (while tablets such as Kindles and iPads are the usual choice, you can also read on desktops via e-reader apps). Amazon Kindle store, Google Play and Apple iBooks are the big hitters, while Project Gutenberg has a library of 60,000 classic eBooks free of charge. Another way to get a hold of free eBooks is through your local library (check the website of the library nearest to you for details on how to go about it).
Another way of avoiding a long wait to get your hands on a book is to get your ears on it first, by buying an audiobook for your smartphone or computer. Audible, Google Audiobooks, Kobo Audiobooks and Downpour are the main paid-for audiobook retailers, while Librivox offers a huge selection completely free.