If you would like to save your local bookstore, there is hope. Our independent bookstores have been decimated in recent years by Amazon. And we have all heard the stories on how some Amazon employees are treated, which has not always improved during Coronavirus. The reason why they have succeeded, is mostly because it has the ability and finances to sell the same books at much cheaper prices. And with excellent customer service? In fact, their customer service is not as good as the ads would tell you, with very low ratings on TrustPilot: often items get lost, people get signed up to Kindle without asking, refunds are difficult, and it’s impossible to contact customer service. Maybe all their overworked staff are fast asleep, as they can’t cope.
Most local independent bookshops are run by people who love books (they sure are not in it for the money). So here are some ways to support your local indie bookshop. If you don’t have one, then also listed are some more independent online stores, as alternatives. Happy reading!
Don’t forget your library. One journalist once wrote that if there was a sign saying ‘the store down the road is giving away free books!’ everyone would flock to it. But really, this is what a library is. You can always ask them to order in books you want to read. Most will do this, with enough budget. And you can usually order books from any library in your county, and take them back to your local library.
Tips to Save Your Local Bookstore
- Use it! Most local bookstores have a loyalty scheme. So ask and then you can get build up points, to get discounts on books that have to be sold at the proper price, so the bookstore can make a living.
- Bookstores can help themselves by ordering in good books and offering goods like author talks and book groups. Why not offer your shop to be a point for Resurgence magazine readers to hold their local discussion? If you have a bit of space, rival the big bookstores and set aside a little area and a coffee machine, so people can browse, before they buy.
- One bookstore in California (it’s been taken over now, so the method has changed) used to offer bookstore gift cards named after various trees. So an Oak (the largest) would be a monthly subscription and for that, you would receive special offers and free access to book clubs etc. Then there would be lots of other ‘trees’ like saplings for youngsters. Use your imagination. If you read good books, you likely have one!
- If you run a local blog or book blog, then promote the local shop. You could interview the person who runs it, or ask for a deal where they give you a code to promote locally.
- Need to get a gift? Everyone likes to fall back on the old gift voucher. Give a book gift voucher, to support your local store.
- Read The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap. This is a lovely story from the US. A couple decided to give up their busy lives to set up an independent bookstore (selling used books) in the mountains. With just them, their pets and a love for books, everyone thought they were mad. Especially as the Kindle had just taken off. But they not only made a success of it, but they also created something else: a community.
Mr B’s Emporium is regularly voted England’s best bookstore. Set in a comfy shop, readers can order (for themselves or others) a range of Reading Gifts, where you are taken over your reading preferences, then receive regular goodies, tailored to your preferences. There is even a Bookstore Band!
Use Amazon (to save your local bookstore!)
Amazon is run by the world’s richest man. Coronavirus has sent his shares soaring. He is now so rich, that he is on course to become the world’s first trillionaire (he has enough money to feed every hungry person on earth). Yet employees have been fired during the outbreak, for complaining about their working conditions. And yet our beautiful bookstores go under. It may cost an extra fiver to buy a local book. But the alternative vision of the future, is really rather scary.
Bookindy is a free app to download. You use it to browse Amazon, then when you find a book, it directs you to the local bookstore, with free delivery. In effect, it uses the technology of Amazon, to support local bookshops instead!
Alternative Indie Online Bookstores
These are ideal, if you have no access to a local bookshop:
- Blackwell’s is a wonderful online bookshop, it’s better than Amazon both in range of books, customer service and employee welfare. With bookshops in Oxford, standard book delivery is free within 1 or 2 days, and they will match lower prices for students. They also sell book tokens and gift cards.
- Foyles is a well-known bookstore. With 4 London branches and more nationwide, it also runs an extensive online store. There’s also a Foyalty card for discounts.
- Wordery is aiming to be an independently-owned alternative to Amazon or Book Depository (which is good, but also owned by Amazon). This has good reviews, and a beautiful interface.
- Hive is a book wholesaler. You can order the books online, then either have them collected locally. Or if delivered to your door, a portion from each sale goes to your nominated local bookshop. Bookshop (run by IndieBound in the US) is soon coming to the UK and runs on a similar premise.
- White Horse Books offers 200,000 books online, from an extensive store. Housed in an ancient 16th century building in Marlborough (Wiltshire), delivery is free over £20.
- YPD Books offers nice little local titles from authors, often who publish independently through their own company YPD Publishing. This is not some fishy outfit like some companies. It does cost money up-front, but they print books (like a traditional publisher) then you keep all the profits.
- Countryside Books (walks, pub walks, dog walks) and Countryside Dog Walks both have an extensive selection of local guides. You can buy direct, to help them keep more profits.