The best independent bookshops online to support during lockdown

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Aiden Wynn
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As more and more people go into self-isolation, it’s looking likely that our favourite independent bookshops will take a hit. 

There are few things lovelier in life than an indie bookshop: the joy of being surrounded by so many unread stories, the sense of calm, and, of course, the shelves stacked high with books old and new, pre-loved and ready-to-be-loved, rare and antiquarian. 

But despite seeing an encouraging resurgence in support for independent bookshops in recent years, they’ve recently been put at risk by – you guessed it – coronavirus. With many people self-isolating and others becoming increasingly anxious to avoid spaces that are too crowded or overly cosy, these treasure troves are likely to be hit hard. 

Independent bookshops started to crop up more and more, and 24 opened across the UK and Ireland in 2019 alone. But with the coronavirus pushing the nation’s lives into uncertainty, these shops are likely to feel the weight of people self isolating and social distancing. 

But there are things we can do to show our support and help keep sales up in this trying, uncertain time. Many independent booksellers take orders online or over the phone, and will deliver across the UK. So if you wanted to buy the latest Hilary Mantel novel or fancy finding something completely different to read, maybe consider popping over to one of these shop’s online sites to put in your order. 

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  • Golden Hare Books (Edinburgh)

    Golden Hare Books in Edinburgh is kind of a big deal. It was named the Independent Bookshop of the Year at the British Book Awards in 2019. It’s also a beautiful space for browsing, with plenty of light and a well-curated selection of books on offer. 

    But since they know that many of their customers will likely be unable to stop by during the coronavirus crisis, they have an online shop where you can browse their selection of books. Refining your search by staff favourites, genre, or price, you’re sure to find a book you love. You can also get in touch via email if you have any enquiries. 

  • Persephone Books (London)

    A bookshop dedicated entirely to exclusive editions of twentieth century women’s literature, London’s Persephone Books is something special. Beginning in 1998 with a mission to publish “lost” or under-appreciated women’s writing, it has now become something of a cult publisher and bookseller, and prides itself on its beautiful, exclusive editions. 

    You can shop their wide selection of books from the website, ranging from historical memoirs, to cookbooks, to feminist fiction and beyond. 

  • Barnett's Books (Wadhurst)

    Barnett’s Books in Wadhurst prides itself on being a community resource. So it’s no wonder really that they are more than happy to post books out to those under lockdown – and have even suggested they might drop books off to those in isolation. 

    They sell a great range of books, and their online shop is furnished with reviews and recommendations, to help you find something new and exciting.

  • Ken Spelman Books (York)

    Ken Spelman’s bookshop in York is a haven of rare and secondhand books. It was first opened in 1948, and is now considered one of the best rare bookshops in the country. 

    Thousands of the books they stock in-store are available to order on AbeBooks, and you can also order over the phone or via email. 

  • Petersfield Bookshop (Petersfield)

    You may be thinking that the name Petersfield Bookshop rings a bell. That’s because at the start of this year the internet saved this lovely bookshop from a day of dire sales

    Well, internet, our time has come again. The shop takes online orders, and you can browse a colossal range of books, from anthropology to fashion, maths to LGBT fiction. 

  • DRAKE the Bookshop (Stockton-on-Tees)

    Based in Stockton-on-Tees, DRAKE the Bookshop was the regional winner of The Independent Bookshop of the year in both 2018 and 2019. At the moment, they are offering their customers home delivery for free if you live in the area, or for a small fee if you live further afield. 

    And, if you want to be surprised, they are also offering to pick and send out a book or two based on your preferences, to give you the chance to find something completely new.

  • Sevenoaks Bookshop (Sevenoaks Town)

    Sevenoaks is a lovely bookshop that has been going since 1948. Right from the start its focus has been on stocking the best emerging literature and the finest classics, to help children and adults alike find their next favourite book. 

    In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, they are offering an increased delivery service. For customers in the Sevenoaks Town area, they are offering free shipping on all online orders. For those elsewhere, postage will cost £3.25. You can contact them via phone or email. 

  • Kim's Bookshop (Arundel and Chichester)

    Viral Twitter photo about books.

    Kim’s Bookshop has locations in Arundel and Chichester, and has been going since 1971. It started out as a tiny shop in Worthing, but its reputation for housing interesting titles soon proceeded it. 

    While it doesn’t have an online ordering system, it does have something else that is fairly magical. As it says on their website, they aren’t called “the book detectives” for nothing. If there’s a book you read many years ago or a story you’ve heard about but you just can’t find, fill in their online Book Finder form – they will almost certainly find it for you. 

  • Five Leaves (Nottingham)

    Another past winner of the Independent Bookshop of the Year, Five Leaves Bookshop took the title in 2018. It is a radical bookshop based in Nottingham, and publishes its own literary, political and social history titles. It does, however, stock an even greater selection than the books it publishes. 

    Five Leaves is currently taking orders for books that are not in stock in their shop, which it will send – for free! – to customers. You can contact them via email.

  • Hive

    Hive isn’t actually an independent bookshop, but it does take great pride in supporting them. It is connected to hundreds of independent bookshops across the UK, and when you make a purchase a percentage of the money goes towards an indie shop of your choice. You can also choose to pick your order up from your local independent shop. 

    This online book-buying service is convenient for buyers, and much more helpful to your favourite indie bookshop than other online alternatives. 

  • London Review Bookshop (London)

    There’s a reason why the London Review Bookshop has more than 280,000 Twitter followers as its social media skewers the literary elite with surreal silliness. The shop itself has been going for 15 years after being opened by the prestigious London Review of Books magazine.

    And now staff are rolling out all the stops to keep us entertained during the coronavirus. There is a new “almost daily” newsletter, Diverted Traffic, featuring one piece from the London Review of Books’ archive “chosen for its compulsive, immersive and escapist qualities, and also for its total lack of references to plague, pandemics or quarantine”. 

    The store is also taking online orders on its website. Why not take a punt and subscribe to the Book Box – a collection of surprises selected by the staff, sent direct to your door each month. Nice surprises would come in handy right now.

  • Mostly Books (Abingdon)

    Special mention must also go to Mostly Books which saw bookseller Lyndsey clock 31km on a bike while making deliveries. The photo of her sporting a waterproof, smudged mascara and a triumphant expression says it all (we think she’s a land girl for the coronavirus generation). 

    The shop, which launched in the Oxfordshire market town in 2012, is offering free delivery throughout a five-mile radius. Options also include a Blind Date with a Book which offers a mystery book, with only the genre indicated, wrapped up with a bar of chocolate and fine tea bags. Romance and books is speaking exactly to what we want right now.

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Aiden Wynn

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