I was watching the local news last week and heard about Independent Bookshop Week for the first time. I have to say that running any Independent retail business is hard. (I have done this for years) But running a book store must be one of the hardest, with Amazon and even supermarkets selling the latest releases at a highly reduced cost it must be very difficult to compete on a level playing field. I meet a lovely lady, who was full of great ideas, at the start of the year at a local networking event who was telling me about the book shop she has been running successfully for several decades, and the many different events and exhibitions that were held throughout the year. I think that indies all need a niche of sorts but with bookshops it is crucial.
Independent Bookshop Week 2020 took place on the 20th to 27th June in the UK, I think the USA version takes place in August. The Independent Bookshop Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign and run by the Booksellers Association, it seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. This is organised by the BA and sponsored by Hachette. This annual celebration of independent bookshops across the UK this year has adapted to include online/virtual events to give book- lovers across the country access to authors and books during lockdown.
I think that books and reading have played a huge part in keeping me sane during lockdown, as a chance to escape, when I can’t leave my home for months! I think I’ve reached 80 books so far, luckily friends and family have been dropping bags and boxes of books on my doorstep!
During the week, it was a chance to celebrate the role indie booksellers have continued to play in building a sense of community during the pandemic as well as encouraging customers to support their local high street by shopping local at what is a particularly challenging time for small retailers. I fully support buying local, we all must if the local high street is to survive.
BOOKS ARE MY BAG is a nationwide campaign run by the Booksellers Association to celebrate bookshops. It launched in 2013 and today it comprises of the Bookshop Day and the Books Are My Bag Readers Awards. At the centre of the campaign is the iconic BAMB tote bag. Since the campaign launched, over a million people have worn a Books Are My Bag to show their love for their local bookshop.
Every year over a thousand bookshops around the country take part in Bookshop Day by creating bespoke window displays and holding special events like: reading groups, storytelling, author signings, literary lunches and even face painting! The BAMB Readers Awards are the only awards curated by bookshops and voted for by book-lovers.
Why Buy Books in your local bookshop? Well if you don’t, they will sadly disappear from the high street. But it might be worth also thinking about the reasons below:
You love books
You might make a purchase you’ll value for the rest of your life
You’ll be shopping on your local high street
You’ll be helping create local jobs
You might just find a book you never knew existed
You’ll find great gifts for friends and family
You can talk to real people about books they know and love
You’ll be part of your local book-loving community.
Bookshops aren’t the same as other shops, they aren’t simply a place to go and buy something, they are so much more than that. When people were asked what it was that makes a bookshop so special, the same messages kept coming up again and again. They are different to other shops, they are relaxed, they’re a place of calm and they are somewhere to talk and to hone ideas. You can easily while away hours in a bookshop, knowing that you aren’t going to be rushed and that there are like-minded people around you.
In this day and age, where technology rules all, there is still something very special about an actual book, I love the smell and feel of a book, which is very different to a kindle book. Browsing through shelves, you never know what you will find, flicking through a book can take you into a different world. Books unite everyone that visits, regardless of where they are from and what they do when they aren’t in the shop. Everyone has a love of books in common and that immediately means that we have something to talk about. Visits to bookshop can give much needed ‘me’ time. I clearly remember getting away from it all by heading to the second floor of Waterstones in Hampstead, when I lived a hectic lifestyle in London.
What makes independent bookshops so important is that they are safe spaces. They can become community hubs, a place that can help to ward off loneliness. To visit regularly for a chat and to browse and in many cases have a cup of tea and cake in the attached café. Children are encouraged to look at the books and learn to love them, often there are kid’s book nooks so there is no need for them to worry about being quiet.
As many local libraries have been closed it makes the role of a local bookshop even more essential.
Damian Barr from indie bookshop week said the following “Indie bookshops do so much for readers and writers—they’re the beating heart of publishing. It’s a joy to be able to celebrate a different indie every day for a week, in addition to our Indie Bookshop of the Month feature on Salon.”
Visit their website for more details; https://indiebookshopweek.org.uk/
Despite the restrictions of 2020 the event was still a success, Emma Bradshaw, Head of Campaigns at the BA, said: “We couldn’t be more delighted by the enthusiasm for Independent Bookshop Week 2020 from across the book trade. In this immensely challenging time, we hope that book lovers across the country will enjoy the many fantastic online events and exclusive editions on offer from indie bookshops, while remembering to choose bookshops and shop local.”
I do hope this special event can continue to go from strength to strength, and that perhaps during lockdown many people have re-discovered their joy of reading.