By Tehzib Janjua and Shuangyue Zhao
In a time when books can be bought with a click of a mouse, how are independent bookshops still relevant?
Starting out as a writer, it may be difficult to convince large book chains to invest in displaying your work. Independent bookshops come in handy here. Many famous authors, such as Jessie Burton, built their brands through events and showcases in independent bookshops. For Burton, it was Bookseller Crow on the Hill, London, but for you, it might be that hidden gem of a bookshop in your own hometown.
Below we have curated our personal favourites in Manchester and London, but there are independent bookshops to be found across the country. We hope the following will help you find independent bookshops to support and emphasise the appeal when looking for locations to highlight new publications.
Tehzib’s Pick: Manchester Book Buyers (1 Church St, Manchester, M4 1PN)
Located just outside the bustling Manchester Arndale, you can find a hidden market stall full of bookish treasures. With prices starting as low as 50p, this independent bookshop is perfect for anyone looking to adventure into a new genre, shopping on a budget, trying to read sustainably or wanting to add to their ever-growing home libraries.
At Manchester Book Buyers, you can find an extensive array of books covering most imaginable genres. From classics like Harper Lee to modern bestsellers such as James Patterson, you are sure to find something to read that suits your bookish tastes.
Manchester Book Buyers will have you visiting with its promises of not just second-hand but also rare books that you might struggle to find elsewhere. Stocking hard-to-find books such as antique editions of classics and vast numbers of maps, Manchester Book Buyers is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered.
Open 12:00–4:00 p.m. from Thursdays to Saturdays, this independent bookshop feels straight out of a bygone era. Sitting next to a fruit and vegetable stall, Manchester Book Buyers is sure to make you feel as though you have left the hustle and bustle of Manchester Arndale behind and entered a close-knit community full of culture and diversity.
Unlike other independent bookshops, Manchester Book Buyers lives up to its location, Church Street Market, consisting of a small walk-in stall that winds in a low to high price order. Barely fitting more than five customers at a time, book buyers are given time and solitude, much like what we might expect from perusing a library. This allows the buyers to fully experience the intimacy and joy of book buying whilst letting them make the most conscious book purchases.
Shuangyue’s Pick: BookBar (166 Blackstock Rd, London, N5 1HA)
While exploring the streets of North London, you won’t want to miss this lovely bookstore – tables and chairs of turquoise colour sit at the door, warm light shines through bright floor-to-ceiling windows and music and cheerful voices of conversation and laughter always come from inside.
When I first walked into BookBar, I was excited by the unique idea of combining a bookshop and a bar which lets people enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine while browsing beautiful books. Later, I found that there are more surprises about BookBar.
Unlike the more obvious buyer-seller relationship in large chain bookshops, people can enter this shop at any time to have a cordial and relaxed conversation with the owner. The staff is always welcoming and willing to provide information about recent books and advice on the publishing industry.
BookBar also conducts various events including interviews, discussions and book signings with authors, BookClub series activities and bookshop parties with bangers and cocktails supplied. Meanwhile, you may find an ideal place for studying or working quietly in BookBar’s small but cosy cellar. BookBar thus has been offering support for new writers and their potential works and enriching people’s cultural as well as social life in the city.
The publicity work of BookBar is also impressive. There are not only new book recommendations and shop activity displays but also interactions with the customers. On its Instagram account, many customers have taken the initiative to share their photos of reading books in the shop or travelling around with its originally designed canvas bags. Just over a year after its opening, BookBar has attracted a large number of residents to become its fans, which shows the originality and vitality of contemporary independent bookshops.
BookBar is open from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. from Wednesdays to Saturdays and from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Sundays.
Don’t forget to post your independent bookshop findings online and to at (@) or hashtag (#) the author. This is a great way to celebrate a less mainstream book buying experience and enjoy reduced book prices whilst still supporting the author. You can also consider doing the same for the shop itself as it is through recommendations and awareness that we can continue to maintain and support these much-loved independent businesses.