How indie bookshops across Britain are responding to lockdown

Find out about the great ways local independents are getting books to readers this winter.

A woman reads at a bookshop. Image: Getty
Image: Getty

As we prepare to hunker down for a third lockdown this week, independent bookshops up and down Britain are rallying to get books to those who need them most. 

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 first lockdown began, as well details on how those shops are planning to serve customers in spite of the latest round of Covid-19 measures. 

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: Bookshop.org

What: It's been hailed as “revolutionary moment in the history of bookselling” – an "ethical" alternative to big sellers like Amazon that allows readers to buy books online while supporting their local indie bookseller. Launching today, with 130 bookshops across the country already on the platform, the new initiative allows stores to create their own virtual shopfronts on the site, and take 30% of the cover price for every book you buy.

Plus, every time you share one of your bookshop.org links and a customer buys a book, 10% of the cover price goes to you and 10% goes to the profit pool for independent bookshops on the platform. And if you want to support a specific independent bookshop (and forego your commission), you can send links to their shops, or with their help, a specific title (you will need them to generate an affiliate link via their Bookshop.org account for a specific title).

Where: Griffin Books, Penarth, south Wales

What: This small independent bookshop on the Welsh seaside is continuing to take orders via their online shop (www.griffinbooksonline.co.uk), email (info@griffinbooks.co.uk) and phone (029 2070 6455). They are also offering free delivery of prepaid orders within Penarth for households who are shielding or self-isolating.  

Where: Little Box of Books, online

What: 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, became increasingly popular with parents stuck at home with kids during the first lockdown. And this lockdown should prove no different. Plus, for every box bought, they donate a book to their charity partner, The Doorstep Library, whose volunteers support families with limited access to books. So far, 13,000 books have been donated to date.

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've announced that the Bear in charge of their their “Lockdown Reading Pharmacy” initiative - in which you tell them a book you recently loved and they'll send you a “prescription” of books they think you'll like - has had a good night's sleep in order to do his good work again. As they posted on their Twitter: "Books got us through this last time, and can do so again". 

Where: Books Upstairs, Dublin, Ireland

What: This sweet little bookshop in the Irish capital are offering 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. And if they send you a book you've already read, they'll swap it for another for free.

Where: Much Ado Books, Alfriston, East Sussex

What: This picturesque little indy off the Sussex coast may have closed its doors after Tier 4, but they are still supplying books, with a click and collect system for local readers. They're also posting worldwide. To order, email shop@muchadobooks.com. 

Where: The Big Green Bookshop, Hastings, East Sussex

What: The Big Green Bookshop has earned 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 during the first lockdown.

Where: Westwood Books, Sedbergh, Cumbria

What: This picture postcard of a second-hand bookshop will continue to take orders over the phone and and through their online shop.

Where: Gutter Bookshop, Dublin, Ireland

What: Voted Independent Bookshop of the Year UK & Ireland 2017, Gutter's two shops in Dublin are offering a prepaid post-out or click & collect service from both their bookshops. Check their website for more details.

Where: The Stripey Badger, Grassington, North Yorkshire.

What: This gorgeous little bookshop, cafe and kitchen in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales is offering to post, deliver locally or arrange for click and collect for anyone who can get to the shop itself during the lockdown.

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: Chicken and Frog, Brentwood, Essex

What: This children's bookshop continues to run live storytime sessions on Instagram and Facebook on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and is taking orders by email for collection and home delivery. They will also be running online creative writing workshops for children over seven on the last Sunday of every month, as well as regular book clubs for children and adults allike. Check the website for details on how to take part. 

Where: Hungerford Bookshop, West Berkshire

This award-winning indie on the Berkshire/Wiltshire border, renowned for their author events pre-lockdown, are taking orders though their website and Bookshop.org, by email (hello@hungerfordbookshop.co.uk) phone (01488 68380) and social media. Customers can collect safely from the shop, or books are delivered locally for free. They continue to post books out nationwide.

Where: Alderburgh Bookshop, Suffolk

What: Located near Ipswich, the Alderburgh bookshop is taking orders through its website or over email or phone after its doors close at 5.30pm on Wednesday. But with around 40,000 books in stock, chances are they'll have what you want. And you can collect your books from their re-instated Non-Contact Collection Box at the front door.

Where: Pages of Hackney, London

What: This charming little indie in the heart of east London will send online book orders locally by bike, or further afield by post, while continuing its popular programme of virtual events, including author interviews and discussions, through its website. 

Where: Burley Fisher Books, Haggerston, London

What: If you're based in east London, Burley Fisher will be serving customers at the door with click and collect during normal hours. You can buy what they have on the shelves, or place an order to collect the next day, while home delivery will remain open too. As they posted on their Instagram: "Books, every which way we can."  

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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