I like a lot of things about Amazon. It’s fast, generally reliable and it almost always has what I’m looking for. What I don’t like is that it means I never physically buy books in shops, especially independent ones. So for 2018, you might remember, I set a resolution to buy books from anywhere but Amazon and Waterstones – as a sort of cooperate-book-buying detox, you could say, a chance to broaden my book-buying horizons. This blog is something of a resolution update, where I’ll share where I’ve been buying books instead.
So despite the whole wanting to go out into, god forbid, real-life stores thing, there’s only one independent bookseller in my town and it’s for kids. While I tend to be in London at least once a week, I don’t always have time to explore the bookish stores around me so I needed to find at least one online alternative. A preliminary Google sent me to Wordery and Hive, both of which I have tried.
Hive is cool because it makes a donation to an independent bookseller near you when you order something. For me this is great because I don’t have any reason to visit the children’s bookstore in town. With Hive I get to support a local store even though I won’t necessarily being shopping there. My issue with Hive is that more often than not, it doesn’t actually have what I’m looking for, be that new or old releases. It does, however, sell DVDs. So while it hasn’t become my online bookshop of choice, my DVD collection has continued to flourish despite my Amazon ban.
When it comes to Wordery I am yet to find fault with it. The books are no more expensive than Amazon (often cheaper), their stock is amazing and their delivery is free and fast. What’s more, every order comes with a complimentary bookmark – that’s me sold. Given that it doesn’t sell everything else in the world like Amazon does, it’s impossible to fall down a random crap shopping spree, so it’s just books at good prices delivered fast – what’s not to love? I’ve also started trying to make a dent in the preliminary reading for my masters course and when it comes to academic books that I can’t get in the library or second hand, Wordery has had the best prices so far.
As mentioned I’m not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to local bookshops in my town, so boycotting Waterstones has been much harder than avoiding Amazon – not that I’ve given up! When in London I am spoilt for choice with independent, or at least alternative, booksellers. I have a list of shops I want to visit that I’m slowly making my way through but here’s where I’ve been so far.
Burley Fisher Books is a shop I stumbled into for a book launch and found it rich in all my favourite authors as well as more quirky and unusual books that I might not have otherwise found. I was there for the launch of Tigerish Waters, and you know how I feel about that one! It’s up near Haggerston and Dalston which isn’t super easy for me to get to, but when work takes me in that direction again I’ll be sure to have a browse.
Persephone Books is a publisher and bookseller near Holborn that reprints and sells otherwise forgotten fiction and non-fiction by (mostly) women writers from the mid-twentieth century in gorgeous grey editions. They’re not exactly cheap but they run a deal for multi-buys and it’s a really special way to collect and explore forgotten treasures of women’s literature.
I’m still searching for an independent bookstore that crosses my regular path and has a mix of new finds and popular books I’m likely to be looking for. The stores I plan on hitting next include the London Review Bookshop (which apparently has cake!) and the Big Green Bookshop (always excellent on Twitter).
When it comes to older and classic books I’ve been going to charity shops, of which there are an abundance of here. When I’m near Southbank I like to have a peruse at the book stalls under Waterloo Bridge, which will be in walking distance from my university next year… I smell trouble.
I also visited Foyles for the first time, which I know is hardly independent but it was different at least. I deliberately headed for the Tottenham Court Road store because it has a Grant and Cutler concession – a foreign language bookstore. Speaking of…
Buying Foreign Language Books
My visit to the Grant and Cutler part of Foyles was good. It had what I needed and so much more, but it was pricey as hell. This has been my general experience of buying French books without Amazon.fr so far – expensive.
I mentioned months ago that I was having issues locating a specific edition of the French Potter books, even on French Amazon. I eventually found a solution by ordering online from a South Kensington based store called Librairie La Page. The whole delivery process ended up getting a bit muddled and the online store was a little pricey so I wasn’t feeling too hot on this one, until… Last week I happened to be in the area and made my way to the store in search of an Emile Zola book. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting to be greeted in French, but when I was I immediately knew Librairie La Page was a gooden. For five minutes I got to nose around French books, ask for help in French and overhear conversations in French – in West London! I can’t say I’m in West London very often but I will happily go out of my way to immerse myself in a little French culture from time to time. The store hosts readings and talks by Francophone authors, which I hope to attend soon. Definitely worth some time on the circle line and a couple of extra quid.
Please let me know about any other indie bookstores you think I should check out, it’s been a lot of fun discovering new places so far but I feel like I’m only just dipping my toes in the water.