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5th March 2021

The joy of independent bookshops

Independent bookshops are struggling due to the impact of coronavirus and the national lockdowns in the UK. Lucy Evans reflects on the joys of the independents and the need to support them.
The joy of independent bookshops
Photo @ Lucy Evans

A trip to an independent bookshop is about so much more than simply buying a book. If you ask any literary lover I’m sure they will tell you the same.

A bookshop is the gateway of all gateways, and a place you can get lost in for hours on end. My local bookshop is where my love of reading first began. Independent bookshops contain some of the most beautiful and unique works you can find, and they exist as an escapism in its ultimate form.

Independent bookshops offer the opportunity for the flourishing of conversations and relationships between strangers, and they unite people with a shared love for books. This is particularly true when attending literary events which are often the perfect opportunity to support local writers. Not to mention the booksellers who dedicate themselves to finding you the perfect book to take home and fall in love with.

Besides, it is wonderful to know you have been considered by another human rather than merely processed through a faceless algorithm.

There have been encouraging signs pointing toward the increasing success of the independent bookshops in the past couple of years. In 2019, the Guardian claimed that ‘Independent bookshops grow for second year after 20-year decline’.

However, it remains the case that in today’s world, less and less people choose to spend their time reading. Considering this, alongside the proliferation of morally corrupt but undeniably convenient services like Amazon, I question how much longer our beloved independents have left.

The current coronavirus pandemic has seen the closure of all non-essential shops. But, there is something exceptionally painful about seeing independent bookshops close their doors. Even before the pandemic there was an awareness of the difficulties the independents were facing. The nostalgia and calm I felt when visiting one was always tainted by an undercurrent of anxiety.

Manchester independents

I fear that the current lockdown may simply be the last straw for independent bookshops. This has been tragically evidenced by the recent closure of Manchester’s very own Magma bookshop. Magma enjoyed eighteen years of business on Oldham Street, and it sold unique works on art, design, and culture. However, the financial damage brought on by the lockdown has proven detrimental.

Magma’s recent closure is a sobering reminder of the impact of the pandemic on local culture. However, all hope is not lost. If you are wondering how you can help, many of the bookstores have set up online shops. Crucially, this offers consumers the opportunity to keep independents going until they are able to open their doors again.

Chorlton Bookshop, for example, have set up a click and collect service which is ‘proving popular’. Despite this, bookseller Jo admits that unfortunately it in ‘no way makes up for regular day to day trade’.

Equally, you could buy a book through The virtual bookstore is an online platform which offers financial support to independents.

We must not let this pandemic widen the existing gap between the industry giants and the independents. Moreover, we must all try to support bookshops if we can. Supporting the independents means supporting friends and neighbours.

I urge us all not to forget the joy of the independent bookshops, and I can only hope that nearly losing them will remind us of their importance.

Words by Lucy Evans.

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