How Britain’s independent bookshops are preparing to re-open their doors as the lockdown eases

Next week, many indies will begin the slow process of re-opening their doors. Here's a list of some of their plans, as well as the great initiatives many have in place for those still self-isolating.

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Book lovers rejoice! This week, bookshops have finally begun the slow, cautious process of re-opening their doors as part of a phased exit from the coronavirus lockdown.

It's been a long and challenging two months for British and Irish booksellers, who have been forced to come up with imaginative new ways to run their businesses and serve customers during the unusual and unprecedented world we have found ourselves in, from offering free home delivery services to migrating book clubs online.

But, as of 15 June, non-essential retailers have been told they can re-open so long as they meet guidelines to protect staff and shoppers.

In preparation, booksellers up and down the country have been working on plans to enable social distancing measures – from reduced opening hours to limits on how many customers can enter at once – while building hand sanitiser stations, insisting on card-only transactions and asking shoppers to wear face masks.

In times of crisis, we have to think of new ways to look out for each other, and the book community is no exception. If you're looking to stock up on reading material, either in-house or online, you can find details of your local bookshop using this search tool from the Booksellers Association.

Below is a list of the great local initiatives we've heard about from indies across the UK and Ireland since the lockdown began, as well details on how those shops are planning to serve customers in person, safely.


This list will be regularly updated, and if you'd like to suggest a bookshop, please tweet us or email on editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk.

Where: Griffin Books, Penarth, south Wales

What: This small independent bookshop on the Welsh seaside is taking online orders via email and social media. They are offering free home delivery in the local Penarth area and posting to customers further afield. Since the lockdown began they've been holding online events, including theur lively toddler Storytime sessions - streamed LIVE every Tuesday and Thursday at 10.30 am via Facebook and Instagram Live.

Where: Drake the Bookshop, Stockton-on-Tees, Co Durham

What: This bookshop-come-speakeasy has set up a collection point from which customers can collect books they've ordered online. They say, however, that the only alcohol on offer for the time being will be hand sanitiser. They plan to open the shop in earnest from 15 June so customers can enjoy their brand new shop layout

Where: Gay's the Word, Bloomsbury, London

What: London's only LGBTQ bookshop was forced to close completely when lockdown began, bringing a halt to bookselling and the numerous community activities that go on on the tiny shop floor. But this week they announced that they will re-open their doors on 1 July. If you don't know about this pioneering meeting place, community resource and bookstore, read our article about it here.

Where: Books Upstairs, Dublin, Ireland

What: This sweet little bookshop in the Irish capital will now be open from 11am to 4am, six days a week. They'll be limiting customers to 12 at a time, offering hand sanitiser and asking for card payments where possible. They're still putting together specially curated book bundles to help readers through the lockdown. Just tell them a theme you're interested in, from feminism to fiction, poetry to Irish history, and staff will select three books they think you'll like and post them out. 

Where: Kenilworth Books, Kenilworth, Warwickshire

What: Tamsin Roswell from Kenilworth Books has launched a new #PassTheBookplate initiative, using her extensive bookshop network to ask high profile authors to sign bundles of bookplates (a printed or decorative label to be pasted into books) for independent bookshops. "The last thing bookshops need right now is to have to take a risk on buying signed stock," say organisers. "If we can instead send them signed bookplates, bookshops can order what they need, when they need it, and sell bookplated books in a steady stream."

Where: Moonlane Bookshop, Ramsgate, Kent

What: For many bookshops, the lockdown has provided a chance to completely re-vamp window displays, and rearrange interiors.  Moonlane Bookshop's new window display is one of the nicest we've seen. This charming children's bookshop dedicated to "raising equality in children’s books", have also announced staff are preparing the site for a grand re-opening in the next few weeks.

Where: Kirkdale Bookshop, Sydenham, South London

What: Describing itsel as as 'an oasis in a desert', this long-standing indy in the heart of South London has revamped its window display ahead of its re-opening on 15 June, dismantling and repainting the entire showcase. They say safety measures are in place, and ask that customers wear facemasks when they return. 

For many bookshops, the lockdown has provided a chance to re-vamp window displays for a completely new image, like at Moon Lane children's bookshop in London. Image: Moon Lane / Twitter
For many bookshops, the lockdown has provided a chance to re-vamp window displays for a completely new image, like at Moon Lane children's bookshop in London. Image: Moon Lane / Twitter

Where: Much Ado Books, Alfriston, East Sussex

What: This picturesque little indy off the Sussex coast re-opened it's doors on Friday 19 June under new hours (Monday to Thursday, 11am to 5pm). And for anyone who is still self-isolating for medical reasons, the owners say they are happy to arrange solo browsing sessions to keep them safe.

Where: The Big Green Bookshop, Hastings, East Sussex

What: The Big Green Bookshop is back open on 15 June. It has garnered a strong online following for its #buyastrangerabook initiative, in which followers are offered the chance to either ask for a book or offer to buy one for somebody else. Such random acts of kindness seem as important now as they did when the lockdown began. And on the BGB's thread, some readers are already offering to buy NHS workers books as a thanks for their work so far in the crisis.

Where: Westwood Books, Sedbergh, Cumbria

What: This picture postcard of a second-hand bookshop is also re-opening on 15 June, following government guidelines. As per most other bookshops, it will continue to post out books or gifts ordered over phone or email by anyone stuck at home during the Coronavirus crisis. They'll even send photos of items to help with buying decisions or just talk through ideas on the phone.

Where: Booka Bookshop, Oswestry, Shropshire

What: For anyone in the Shropshire area who's stuck at home and in need of a good read, staff at the Booka Bookshop will deliver free to your door, or for a small charge if you live further afield. But now, since the government announcement, it will re-open on Tuesday 16 June.

The Stripey Badger
The Stripey Badger bookshop is throwing in a complimentary scone baked fresh in their kitchen with every home-delivery order. Copyright of The Stripey Badger

Where: Gutter Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland

What: Voted Independent Bookshop of the Year UK & Ireland 2017, Gutter's two shops in Dublin started welcoming customers back from Monday (8 June), under new hours (check the website for details). And they will continue to offer a Post-Out and Click & Collect service for all web orders. 

Where: The Stripey Badger, Grassington, North Yorkshire.

What: This gorgeous little bookshop, cafe and kitchen in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales is reopening from 15 June, from 11am to 3pm, from Thursdays to Mondays. It will be following government advice on saftey procedures, while it continues to take orders and offer free postage on orders over £25. 

Where: St Ives Books, St Ives, Cornwall

What: Family-run St Ives Books will reopen its doors on Monday 15 June, Monday to Saturday, from 11am to 4pm. They will also send great reads to anyone in the area who still can't leave their home during the crisis. Just visit their online shop and place your order. 

Where: Padstow Bookseller, Padstow, Cornwall

What: This Cornish bookseller is reopening the shop on Monday 15 June. It continues to take orders via its online shop, email and through its social channels, and will arrange delivery. Check its website for regular updates.

Where: LRB Bookshop, Central London

What: This bookstore run by the famed literary magazine of the same name is still taking orders through its website and by email, and will post whatever books you need.

Where: Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham

What: This shop specialises in cityscape and landscape, politics, fiction and poetry, LGBT, counterculture, international writing as well as magazines and journals. It continues to take orders via email, and says it can supply any book in print.

Where: Gwisgo Bookworm, Aberaeron, Wales

What: A true community bookshop where people often pop in just for a chat while waiting for a bus (the bus stop is opposite) if not to buy a book. They want people to know they can still get in touch by phone or email, even just to chat if they don't want to order a book at that time. They will deliver free of charge wherever possible and with a minimum charge for more distant deliveries. Alternatively, orders can be left in an agreed place to avoid direct contact. 

Where: Own It! storytelling lifestyle brand, online

What: A storytelling lifestyle brand telling tales across books, music, art and film, Own It! says if you buy a book from their website, they'll gift another book to any person of your choice.

Round Table Books donates stock to foodbanks so that hard-up families can pick up free books for their children to read. Copyright of Round Table Books

Where: Chicken and Frog, Brentwood, Essex

What: This children's bookshop is running live storytime sessions on Instagram and Facebook on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and is taking orders by email for home deliveries.

Where: Sevenoaks Bookshop, Sevenoaks, Kent

What: This Sevenoaks bookshop has ramped up its online delivery service to help stuck-at-home readers 'journey wherever [their] heart desires with a good book'. It's offering delivery within a small area (customers can check on the website if they're eligible). If you're outside the delivery area, you can email the shop, which will organise delivery from its wholesalers if the books you want are in stock.

Where: Falmouth Bookseller, Falmouth, Cornwall

What: 'Today we are being positive,' tweeted the Falmouth Bookseller back in March. Despite bolstering their online shop to send out orders made by phone whilst feathering their online shop with more staff recommendations daily, they were forced to close all operations soon after that tweet. But their online shop has now reopened, with bigger plans in the pipeline, they say. 

Where: Alderburgh Bookshop, Suffolk

What: Located near Ipswich, the Alderburgh bookshop is taking orders of one book at a time. But with around 40,000 books in stock, chances are they'll have what you want.

Where: Steyning Bookshop, Steyning, West Sussex

What: They're continuing to offer to anyone who's stuck at home in Steyning or surrounding villages a door-to-door delivery for free, or for a small charge if further afield. One of the shop's book group members has even volunteered to deliver on her bicycle. They offer book recommendations over the phone or email and have a useful newsletter, too.

Where: Burley Fisher Books, Haggerston, London

What: If you're self-isolating in Hackney, east London, send an email telling them what you need and they'll send you a payment link before posting the book out to you. They also teamed up with contemporary fiction and essay publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions to expand their mail order capacity.

Where: The Book Hive, Norwich, Norfolk

What: Not only is the Norwich-based indie offering free postage to anywhere in the UK, but it's selling 'self-isolation book packs' to anyone stuck at home. All you do is choose a theme (i.e. fiction, poetry, non-fiction etc.), tell them the kind of books you like and they'll send you five hand-picked books to keep you busy in lonely times. One pack costs £45, free delivery. It's also doing a lucky dip, where readers can place an order and will then be sent a paperback recommended by the team at The Book Hive.

Where: Little Box of Books, online

What: Normally, this husband-and-wife-run book delivery service sends books boxes of inclusive and representative children’s books to schools and families to 'help children better understand the world and their place in it.' But their 'bumper boxes', that include more than 10 titles, have become increasingly popular with parents stuck at home with kids. See their website for details on how to order, or follow them on Twitter.

Where: Mostly Books, Abington, Oxfordshire

What: The team at Mostly Books is continuing to take orders, and will arrange postal delivery for a flat fee of £3 (apart from on large orders).

If you're not sure where your closest independent bookshop is, The Booksellers Association has a handy tool, here.

Any you'd like us to add? Email editor@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk.

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