Virtual Bookshop Tour: The Riverside Bookshop, London

Virtual Bookshop Tour

Day 7: London

We’re back where it all began. Just as The Jack Hansard Series begins in London, in ends there too, in a showdown that very nearly levels the British Museum. Our stop for today is inspired by the book market that Jack and old pal Peggy (who happens to be an independent bookseller herself) visit under Waterloo Bridge – the Southbank Centre Book Market. This large open air market specialises in secondhand and antique books, and in normal circumstances would be open every single day.

To mark this last stop, I went looking for an independent bookshop which was nearby and also situated on the south bank of the Thames. And I soon found: The Riverside Bookshop.


The Riverside Bookshop frontage
The Riverside Bookshop
Unit 15, Hay’s Galleria
57 Tooley Street
London
SE1 2QN

Image Source

The Riverside Bookshop is located on the street-side of Hay’s Galleria – a beautiful structure in its own right – set under a covered walkway. You might miss it if you aren’t looking, set back from the pavement as it is, but if you did you’d be missing a treat.



This bookshop is larger on the inside than it looks on the outside, and spans more than just one floor. It’s bright and neat, with a plethora of books organised into easily accessible areas, and usually a table set aside with the shop’s own recommendations. In addition to books you’ll find greetings cards, fancy gift wrap and the occasional plushie toy on their shelves as well.

A friendly shop with a broad range of stock!


Inside The Riverside Bookshop
A bright and welcoming bookshop.
Image Source

How can I support The Riverside Bookshop?

Like many independent bookshops during lockdown, The Riverside Bookshop has had to close up shop entirely. They’ve turned to indie newcomer uk.bookshop.org to continue selling online during this period, so I’m pleased to direct you to The Riverside Bookshop’s online shopping page here.

You’ll find some carefully curated selections based on reading age (check out ‘Adventure and Laughs for 9-11 Year Olds’), subjects (such as the ‘Go Wild – Books on Nature’ collection), and even feelings (‘You’ve Got to Laugh’ is definitely a collection for the times) to help you find the perfect book. Every purchase you make on this platform will also contribute towards funding independent bookshops in the UK!


Riverside Bookshop Online

You can also support the shop by following them online. On the social side you will find them on Instagram posting beautiful books and extra photos of events inside the bookshop.

On the shop’s home page you’ll find their blog where they post thoughtful book reviews, their weekly bestsellers list, and news about the shop. If you’re a WordPress user you can also hit the Follow button to see their new blog posts show up on your feed.


Bookshop Loyalty Card

And if you’re lucky enough to live locally? Look out for news on the reopening of The Riverside Bookshop next week and look at getting yourself one of these Little Red Cards – their very own loyalty card scheme. I hope you’ll pop along and take a look around!

If you want to get in touch with The Riverside Bookshop, you can send an email to: info@riversidebookshop.co.uk


And this brings us to the end of our Virtual Bookshop Tour! Goodness, it’s been a long week, but I’ve had great fun researching and writing about these great independent bookshops across England. I hope you’ve had fun following along! One day I’d like to re-enact this tour in person.

You can find links to all the bookshops we’ve visited on the tour here. I hope you’ll consider giving them a share and a follow – even if you’ve found nothing for yourself, someone else might just find their perfect bookish purchase.

And remember, as lockdown lifts next week, look out for news of when and how your local independent bookshop is reopening. Show them some love if you can!

Virtual Bookshop Tour: Sam Read Bookseller, Grasmere


Day 6: Grasmere

I mentioned previously that The Lake District is a recurring setting in The Jack Hansard Series, and today we’ve travelled back here to mark Jack’s ordeal with an aquatic horror at Wastwater. I couldn’t hope to reproduce enough images to do this awe-inspiring location justice, so I recommend you have a look around the photos here for the full picture.


Wastwater scree slopes
The steep scree slopes at Wastwater.
Photo by © Richard Thomas (cc-by-sa/2.0)

For today’s stop on the tour I had to get a little creative because, as you might imagine, there is no bookshop located at Wastwater. Grasmere is (I think) the location of the closest bookshop as the crow flies, though it may still take you well over an hour to drive through the hills to reach! This is where we find our penultimate bookshop stop: Sam Read Bookseller.


Sam Read Bookshop
Sam Read Bookseller
Broadgate House
Grasmere
Ambleside
LA22 9SY

Sam Read’s has been trading since 1887 and is named after the original owner. With its gorgeous stone walls and Victorian windows coupled with the sublime rural setting, Sam Read’s looks like the quintessential traditional English bookshop.

Let’s take a moment to truly appreciate the setting. It’s a select few bookshops that can boast such a dramatic backdrop.


Sam Read Grasmere

“I would say our biggest claim to fame is our age – 133 years and still going strong – and our location, nestled in the heart of Grasmere village opposite the Village Green (known as Moss Parrock) and with views of the fells from our windows.”

Elaine from Sam Read’s

Inside, the shop is crammed with books but doesn’t feel overcrowded or disorganised. It looks like a bookshop with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.


Inside Sam Read Bookseller
Books upon books upon books.

How can I support Sam Read Bookseller?

Don’t let the historic character mislead you – Sam Read’s is perfectly modern with its swish online shop which you can find easily on their website. I was in a bit of a non-fiction mood when I was browsing, so here are some titles inspired by my hobbies and interests. Click on the covers to find out more!


Woodland Whittling book
I have a few friends who would enjoy this
Folk Magic and Healing book
Books like these are great inspiration-fuel for me
See Inside Castles Usborne book
I loved books like this as a kid. Bookmarked for when kiddo is a little older
Weird Woods book
I love horror stories which are based on real locations and folklore

If you know someone who would rather choose their own books and loves the Lake District, then a Sam Read gift card might be a great present idea. I rather like that you can choose the design on the gift card, as well.

They also stock some lovely Christmas cards with designs based on the local area. Is that Wastwater and Sam Read’s bookshop itself that I spy on some of them?


Wastwater Christmas Cards
Santa at Wastwater
Bookshop Christmas Cards
Does this scene look familiar?

For the best places to follow Sam Read’s on social media, they post fairly regularly on Instagram, and even more so on Twitter.

They’re a little less active on Facebook, but if that’s your preferred medium you can give them a follow here. Certainly worth a look, just for the beautiful landscape photos of the surrounding area!


We’re nearly at the end of our tour! You can look back on all the places we’ve visited so far here. Tomorrow we travel to our final destination, which also happened to be our first: London.


Bookshop photos reproduced with the kind permission of Sam Read Bookseller.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: Storysmith, Bristol

Day Five: Bristol

I’ve only been to Bristol once, and it was to visit the S.S. Great Britain – a brilliantly immersive museum experience onboard a historic steamship. You’ll find the S.S. Great Britain situated within the equally historic Floating Harbour, which is what brings us to Bristol today. Readers of The Jack Hansard Series may be aware of the trans-dimensional properties of the harbour… Don’t fall in, that’s all I’m saying.

About ten minutes away, south of the harbour and across the river, you’ll find our bookshop stop for today: the eloquently named Storysmith.


Storysmith Shopfront
Storysmith
49 North Street
Bristol
BS3 1EN

How beautiful is this shopfront? I love how glossy and elegant it is. Those striking shutters open to reveal a colourful window display underneath as well.

Inside, a small set of stairs divides two floors of books. It’s an open, comfortable space with tall bookshelves and scattered seating so you can browse at a leisurely pace. The books you will find here have all been hand-picked by the Storysmith team; with an eclectic but accessible collection, they believe in presenting people with high quality and beautiful books. It’s this personal flavour and attention to detail which behemoth corporate retailers (like the mighty ’Zon…) cannot possibly replicate. In this, independent bookshops will always be king.


Storysmith Bookshelves
Dibs on the comfy chair.

“Because we’re a small shop, we pride ourselves on our careful curation. Hopefully customers will see just enough books they recognise, but plenty more interesting-looking titles that they don’t. Also we have a shop dog named Roy, who is always on hand to give recommendations.”

Dan from Storysmith

And like many independent bookshops, Storysmith keeps a lively roster of sell-out events – take a look at all the authors they’ve previously hosted here. There’s plenty of floor space to comfortably host groups and they run not just one, but four monthly book clubs which they’re currently keeping alive online during lockdown. Not only a bookseller, but a meeting place and community hub, too.


Bookshop Dog
Roy the shop dog. I know you all wanted to see the pupper.


How can I support Storysmith?

Storysmith have their own online shop right on their website. At a glance you can see they’re not kidding about their goal to curate beautiful books. There are some seriously gorgeous titles on display.

Here’s a selection of just a few that caught my eye, and frankly they can all go on my Christmas list. (Friends and family, hope you’re paying attention). Click on the covers to go straight to their Storysmith product page.


War of the World
I love this book but have never owned a copy, and this cover is gorgeous
The Girl and the Dinosaur
I can’t wait for when my daughter is old enough to read books like this

A Natural History of the Hedgerow
History and countryside, this looks like a calming read
Help the Witch
Horror, folklore, and English landscapes? It’s like it was written for me. I NEED IT

Looking for a book gift but not sure what to buy? Maybe try a Storysmith gift voucher instead.

You can also purchase book subscriptions ‘for curious readers’ starting from £45 for three months – each delivery will include extra notes on the month’s book selection, and a bag of indulgent Triple Co Roast coffee. They also offer a wonderful baby book subscription (sans the caffeine) – a lovely idea for a newborn or first Christmas gift.

To see more photos of Roy the dog (and keep up with news about the shop, of course) you can follow Storysmith on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



One final book suggestion above: if you’ve been enjoying our Virtual Bookshop Tour, then Bookshop Tours of Britain by Louise Boland might be right up your street. I came across it while browsing Storysmith’s Twitter!


We’ve reached the end of Day 5 on our Virtual Bookshop Tour! Tomorrow we’ll be heading all the way back to the Lake District to visit the small village of Grasmere.


Photos reproduced with the kind permission of Storymith.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: J. E. Books, Hull

Day Four: Hull

The next step of our journey brings us to the Humber Estuary and Kingston upon Hull, the port city that lies on its north bank. It’s in a riverside warehouse complex that we visit ‘The’ Market in The Jack Hansard Series – that is, the annual gathering of Black Market traders showing off all their mythical and occult wares. I’m happy to say today’s bookshop is based in a rather nicer location. Let’s take a look at: J. E. Books.


J. E. Books shopfront
J. E. Books
12 Hepworth’s Arcade
Hull
East Yorkshire
HU1 1JU

Situated under the stunning glass roof of Hepworth’s Arcade, a grand Victorian covered passageway housing a number of quirky small businesses, J. E. Books looks to be at home among friends. This is quite a young bookshop compared to others we’ve visited: J. E. Books opened just two years ago in 2018. But this doesn’t mean that it’s lacking in character or personality. Indeed, the location within the Arcade itself is already an extraordinary introduction to this little bookshop.

The ‘Go away, I’m reading’ tote bags hanging in the window evidence the owner’s sense of humour. As you enter, it looks as though they are doing a lot with a small space, and you might be momentarily fooled into thinking this single room is the whole of the bookshop. But venture up the stairs and you will find plenty more new and second hand books waiting for you to peruse.


Hepworth Arcade
The stunning Hepworth’s Arcade
Photo by Tim Green from Bradford, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

J.E. Books certainly makes the most of its location for hosting events, as well. Not troubled by limited space, they have previously run author book signings, poetry readings and storytelling right outside the front of the shop – a real treat for shoppers passing by. Especially the… ‘Poets with Megaphones’ event in 2019? That sounds amazing.


Bookshop storytime in Hepworth Arcade
A story time and music performance at J. E. Books, February 2019
Poets with megaphones
People gather to get shouted at by poets at Hepworth’s Arcade, December 2019

How can I support J. E. Books?

You know the drill by now – start by heading to social media!

Across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram J.E. Books have been creating a Virtual Bookshop Window for you to enjoy nearly every day. Here you’ll find their latest themed recommendations for sale by mail order. And of course, if you want a personalised recommendation, just ask!


Murder Most Festive book cover
Two ‘festive’ picks from a recent Virtual Bookshop Window
Christmas is Murder book cover
Can I add this one to my wishlist, please?

“As an independent bookshop owner I can offer a personal and individual service even during lockdown – customers can email me at jlellam@hotmail.co.uk or private message @jebookshull on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram at anytime and I will get back to you as soon as possible to take orders.”

Julie from J. E. Books

They also have a wonderful range of gifts – I’ve picked out a few for you below.


Go Away I'm Reading tote bags
Go Away tote bags for £6
Bumblebee shapes tea towel
Do you know your bumblebees?
Tea towels £9.95 and just £1 postage
Butterfly Notebook set
I like this sweet butterfly notebook set
Cicero quote tote bag
£8.99 for the Cicero quote tote

It’s also worth knowing that J. E. Books is currently offering postage for just £3 or under, and FREE for orders over £40.

To order, send Julie a direct message or email: jlellam@hotmail.co.uk

And finally, for more bookish content check out the bookshop’s blog here – the latest posts are a series of author interviews. Hit follow and give them a like on social media if you can. A small gesture can be a big help to small businesses.


We’re now over halfway through our Virtual Bookshop Tour! Our next stop tomorrow is at another port city: Bristol.


Bookshop photos reproduced with the kind permission of J. E. Books.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: The New Bookshop, Cockermouth

Vritual Bookshop Tour Banner

Day Three: Cockermouth

Cockermouth is a peaceful market town on the western edge of The Lake District in Cumbria. It marks the point where the Rivers Cocker and Derwent join, and a 13th century stone castle looks over the town from this river junction.

The Lake District is featured several times throughout The Jack Hansard Series. Jack first travels there to meet the Witch of the Lakes and then moves on to spend some time in Cockermouth – where he falls victim to an invisible thief, and meets a morose shellycoat lurking in the river. During his mad dash through the town, it’s quite likely that he would have passed right by the doors of The New Bookshop, our tour stop for today.


The New Bookshop Street Frontage
The New Bookshop
42-44 Main Street
Cockermouth
CA13 9LQ

“The bookshop has been here for 52 years, endured some hard times but has sat solidly on Main Street as a welcoming, friendly space known and loved by the town.”

Catherine from The New Bookshop

The New Bookshop has a large, attractive blue and white frontage on Cockermouth’s high street. I love their bird logo and style of the shop interior; it projects a smooth and calm character to me.

Inside, it’s a spacious shop with grey tiled floor, with large open bookshelves and table neatly stacked with hand-picked titles. This is a bookshop which gives you space to appreciate the book-browsing experience.


Inside The New Bookshop

They also have that most coveted of bookshop add-ons: the coffee shop. It boasts homemade cakes with good tea and coffee, alongside a scrumptious Breakfast and Lunch menu if you need a heartier meal.

I love a good bookish coffee shop. Books – whether in shops or in libraries – are often at the heart of communities, and providing an extra meeting space with seating and refreshments just naturally rounds out their underlying purpose as a community hub.


The New Bookshop Coffee Shop

The importance of community can also be felt through The New Bookshop’s events programme. Lockdown and social distancing restrictions have understandably wiped out their 2020 calendar, but as well as the usual author book signing events, they’ve also previously hosted musicians, a regular social book group, and a children’s story time group.



How can I support The New Bookshop?

Like many independent bookshops during lockdown, The New Bookshop has taken to social media to help you find the books you need. Follow them on Instagram for book recommendations, Facebook for more detailed news, and Twitter for the bitesize version.

If you prefer a more traditional online shopping experience, then you can now browse their collections on the new indie bookselling platform uk.bookshop.org. Here The New Bookshop have curated themed selections to help you discover exactly what you’re looking for – and every purchase you make also goes towards funding independent bookshops around the country. (To learn more about bookshop.org you can read my previous post about it here.)

Remember though, it’s often still better to buy direct from independent bookshops if you can, so take a moment to check out their special Christmas stock. They have some cool gift ideas in, like this very cute range of felting kits and their ‘Lucky Dip’ themed book bundles.


Lucky Dip: 3 Paperbacks for £15
Email to grab a bundle for yourself!

And if your bookshelves are currently too full? Well, you can donate a children’s book to a Cumbrian family in need this Christmas. This is an initiative The New Bookshop runs each year. They donate a large collection themselves and take donated books bought by customers to pass on to their local Foodbank. I’ve done this myself and it’s super easy: just pop them an email with a price range and title – or you can ask them to pick out a book for you instead – and they’ll sort everything else.


You can donate books up to 6th December
SCIENCE! Browse these kids’ books and more on their social media pages

You can get in touch with The New Bookshop via their social media, or by email: info@newbookshop.co.uk

During lockdown there will also be someone in the shop between 9am and 1pm Monday-Saturday if you want to give them a ring: 01900 822 062


Three days down, four more to go. Are you enjoying our Bookshop Tour? Tomorrow we’re heading to Kingston upon Hull, on the Humber Estuary.


All photos reproduced with the kind permission of The New Bookshop.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: The Ironbridge Bookshop

Virtual Bookshop Tour

Day Two: Ironbridge

Pack your bags and get ready for a day-trip from the comfort of your sofa/bed/bathtub. Today we’re off to The Ironbridge Gorge, an area in Shropshire that has the privilege of being a World Heritage Site because of its global importance to the Industrial Revolution. It’s a tremendously beautiful place; the green, densely wooded slopes of the Gorge belie the grittiness of its industrial history.

Readers of The Jack Hansard Series will understand why Ironbridge is so close to my heart. This is where we meet Ang, the crotchety little Welsh coblyn who becomes Jack’s trustworthy sidekick. They meet in the town of Ironbridge, which is where we find our bookshop stop for today: The Ironbridge Bookshop.


Ironbridge Bookshop
The Ironbridge Bookshop
5 The Square
Ironbridge

A big part of what makes independent bookshops so special is the people who run them. This bookshop happens to be run by the youngest bookshop-owner in England – yes, you read that right. Meg was just 18 when she took over The Ironbridge Bookshop six years ago, after having also worked there while growing up. Her brilliantly inventive and colourful displays are at the heart of this bookshop’s character.

Outside, the bookshop has a bright but quaint aesthetic to match the traditional surroundings of the town. Inside on the ground floor is where you’ll find a wide range of fiction and non-fiction. It’s a modest space and you won’t pack many people in at once, but the shelves are a treasure-trove of excellent books. I can attest to this personally as I’ve had the pleasure of visiting – and filling out my Terry Pratchett collection – on a few occasions.

Upstairs, however, is a different story. As you walk up the striking book-themed stairs, you quickly realise that The Ironbridge Bookshop is also a specialist bookshop.


Ironbridge Bookshop Penguin Wall
The Penguin Wall

“I’d say the most characteristic part of the shop is the Penguin Wall or book stairs. They are both colourful and eye catching and always provide a talking point!”

Meg from The Ironbridge Bookshop

Penguin books are at the heart and soul of this shop. One vibrant wall of books – affectionately called the Penguin Wall – is filled with this huge collection of original Penguin titles. Some of them are quite rare indeed. If you have a Penguin collector in your life, send them this way immediately.

The upper floor is also home to beloved children’s classics: think Ladybird books and Beatrix Potter.

Overall, this bookshop has the kind of homely vibe that I love. Slightly narrow, slightly messy, filled with the clutter of an avid booklover. (Yes, books stacked on books is a legitimate decorating style, don’t judge me!) It’s bright and colourful and a joy to hunt for bookish treasures in.


Ironbridge Bookshop Book Stairs
These stairs feature in a lot of The Ironbridge Bookshop’s creative Instagram book displays.

How can I support The Ironbridge Bookshop?

If you’re lucky enough to live in the local area, The Ironbridge Bookshop is offering a click and collect service. And if not, they will post books out to you instead!

You should definitely follow the bookshop on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter where Meg regularly posts beautiful book displays for you to enjoy. This is also a lovely way to browse new and old titles alike – often with a little bit of history included in the description, too. Follow, learn, and maybe snag yourself a collectible along the way!

These books from the ‘In Praise of’ series have caught my eye: sweet little books filled with uplifting poetry, short quotes and old photos, currently available for just £5.99 each.

Beautiful Vintage Books
“Published by Frederick Muller between 1947-1955, with a range of titles, put together by different authors.” – The Ironbridge Bookshop

And here’s an example of the kind of classic gems you might discover. Isn’t this selection of vintage Alice in Wonderland covers fascinating?



Placing an order is easy. You can get in touch with The Ironbridge Bookshop through any of their social media channels, or by sending an email to theironbridgebookshop@gmail.com

And if you’re hunting for something specific, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice. Have fun treasure-hunting!


Before we go, here’s an extra stop for the Jack Hansard fans. Below is the famous Iron Bridge which Jack crosses to meet Ang and her hidden community of Welsh coblynau. The bridge was built in 1781 and is widely regarded as the first major bridge to be made of cast iron. And it’s just opposite The Ironbridge Bookshop!


Iron Bridge
Tk420, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

That brings us to the end of today’s tour. I’ll leave you to browse while I prepare for tomorrow’s leg of the journey; it’s a long way to Cumbria. (If you want to see what’s coming up, you can find the full Tour Itinerary here.)

See you tomorrow!


All bookshop photos reproduced with the kind permission of The Ironbridge Bookshop.

Virtual Bookshop Tour: Daunt Books, London

Jack Hansard Virtual Bookshop Tour

Welcome to the Tour!

This marks the start of our intrepid bookshop expedition. The locations we’re visiting this week have been inspired by settings from The Jack Hansard Series, my debut book release. But the real purpose of the tour is to celebrate the unique character of independent bookshops across England. We may not be able to visit them in person right now, but we can still show our favourite book-havens some love!

You can find the full Tour Itinerary here.


First stop, London!

Daunt Books Frontage
CVB, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Fans of Jack Hansard will remember that we first meet our eponymous hero while he is dangling above the River Thames. I’ve chosen an historic London location for our first bookshop stop: Daunt Books. The building that houses the flagship Daunt Books shop was built in 1910, at 83 Marylebone High Street. It’s the perfect place to start our journey: it has personality pouring out of its metaphorical ears.

Outside, the shop has an impressive double-frontage as it occupies the shop next door as well. Inside, oak bookshelves line the walls. In the rear room, an elegant stained glass window makes for a stunning focal point. Look up, and you’ll see long oak galleries and dramatic skylights above. This is a big, beautiful, airy bookshop. It’s also supposedly the world’s first custom-built bookshop, designed by architect Sir William Henry White under the original Edwardian owner, Francis Edwards.


Bookshop interior
This iconic room can be found at the back of the shop.
Photo by Ugur Akdemir on Unsplash

The shop has only been known as Daunt Books since 1990 when it was bought by James Daunt. Since becoming Daunt Books, it has produced several branches all across London.


Oak bookshelves and galleries
A view from the top.
Photo by Alexandra Kirr on Unsplash

How can I support Daunt Books?

Daunt Books have a very robust shop on their website, so you can browse and order books from the comfort of your sofa. If you don’t know what to look for, you can even request a recommendation and one of their skilled booksellers will help you out. They also stock a beautiful selection of stationery and I recommend checking out their Christmas advent calendars. I’m tempted by one of the very sweet 3D scenes. Toy Shop or Town House? I can’t decide…

How sweet is this?
Find it here.

If you’re still stumped for gift ideas, take a look at their themed book bundles for a ready-made present. And if you need an extra-impressive bespoke gift, they even offer a tailored book subscription. The focus on personalised service is exactly why we love independent bookshops so much.

To see more beautiful books in your life, give Daunt Books a follow on social media, too. They are active on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.


That concludes today’s stop on the tour! Join us tomorrow as we journey to the peaceful hills of Shropshire and a picturesque setting in the Ironbridge Gorge.

Join me on a Virtual Bookshop Tour around the country

Are you fed up with being stuck inside during lockdown? Missing the ability to travel and explore new places? Me too. That’s why I’m running a Virtual Bookshop Tour next week!

Join me on 23rd – 28th November for a journey around England to visit major locations from The Jack Hansard Series – and at every stop we’ll be throwing the spotlight on a local independent bookshop. One of the joys of indie bookshops is how unique they all are: worth visiting as much for their character as for the books they sell.

We’ll sight-see some dramatic locations, gorgeous furnishings and quirky features (although sadly I cannot reproduce the authentic bookish smell). Whether you miss the thrill of travelling, are hankering for some Christmas book-shopping ideas, or simply ADORE bookshops, join us Monday-Sunday for the tour and show these independent booksellers some love!

Here’s your Tour Itinerary:

Necessary Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of these bookshops and gain nothing apart from enjoyment from this exercise. 🙂

Step aside, Amazon. A new Indie Bookseller is in town.

Indie bookshops are turning to online solutions as coronavirus closes doors again.

Yesterday the publishing world was awash with news of the UK launch of uk.bookshop.org, a new book-selling platform geared towards helping independent bookshops in the online marketplace. It first launched in the US back in January and has since then partnered with over 900 indie bookshops and raised over $7.5m in funds to support them.

“Bookshop.org is an online bookshop with a mission to financially support local, independent bookshops.”

In their own words.

This new platform – simply named Bookshop – provides an online space for physical bookshops, authors, and influencers to band together in order to funnel money towards independent booksellers. Money is earned in two ways: by commission, selling through virtual shopfronts or with affiliate links; and through payments from a central pool of profits which are shared out equally to bookstores. A bookstore can earn the full 30% from sales through their shopfront plus a share of that central pool, while Affiliates can earn a 10% commission on each sale they prompt.

Like many indie authors (not all, I hasten to add) I am a reluctant Amazon-user. I distribute my book through Amazon out of necessity – I would lose too many potential readers if I ignored it. (EVERYBODY uses Amazon, and the Kindle is one of the biggest ereaders out there.) So the arrival of a new indie book platform with the express intent of rivaling Amazon feels like a brilliant step forwards.

It sounds like a win-win-win.

However, there are a few less positive opinions of Bookshop.org bouncing around as well. One view is that the platform doesn’t actually help physical bookstores as much as it claims to. It’s still often slightly more profitable for a bookshop if you buy in-store or from their official website, rather than to buy through their Bookshop.org page. It’s also been suggested that all of the Affiliate pages might drown out the shopfronts of actual indie bookstores. While Bookshop.org is intentionally encouraging the bookloving community to jump in and create lists of books and drive traffic towards them, some indie booksellers feel this might be pulling traffic away from their own storefronts.

The upside of this, to my mind, is that every Affiliate sale also contributes to that central pool of funds which is shared among the indie bookstores. So Affiliates like authors and book reviewers – who often use Affiliate links to other book-selling sites anyway – can still earn a profit from their links while ALSO helping out indie bookshops.

Another advantage is that Bookshop.org takes care of fulfilment – they handle the physical work of packaging and shipping the books to customers. As the next lockdown looms large in the UK, this ability for bookshops to go completely (and hopefully only temporarily) virtual is a literal lifesaver to some businesses.

“It has been an utter lifeline. Sales flooded in as soon as we announced our temporary closure.”

Bookshop.org helped this business survive through the initial onslaught of Covid-19

So far, it looks like the majority of opinion from the indie community is overwhelmingly positive. Frankly anything that encourages readers away from Amazon – and nudges them back in the direction of local independents – is an idea to be celebrated.

Below, you can see what my Affiliate Author page currently looks like. (Yes, this is an Affiliate Link.) I’ll use it to list my own books and a couple of relevant collections for those who like to know what I read. Anything you buy from my page will earn me a 10% commission, and it will be matched by another 10% which goes towards supporting indie bookshops. But for a much broader and less eclectic mix of titles, you should definitely use the map tool to find your closest indie bookshop and browse through their page as well.

You can see that when I wrote this, they’d already raised over £22,000 for indie bookshops since launching yesterday.

If you’re an indie bookseller, feel free to drop your bookshop.org link in the comments along with an intro to your store. I’ll share the hell out of it where I can. Look out for more posts about indie bookshops coming soon!

Little Stitch Eyes and The Glimmerfish

Yesterday I shared five poems inspired by E. J. Ikin’s recent Inktober artworks based around his newest creation, Little Stitch Eyes. Here are five more uncanny poems inspired by this uncanny character.


“She called out on the radio for help, but no one answered.”

* * *

Stuttering static patters
Like fizz-ng raindr-ps in your ears
Sending flutt-r-ngly erratic spats -f music
Echoing down the y–rs

Eventually the metre peters ou-
The baseline th-ds no more
You are left with noisy st-tic sil-nce
As your m-mory l-ses score.


“Little stitch eyes liked to fish. She wasn’t fussed about catching anything. She just liked to stand by the water.”

* * *

Standing still on blackened sand
Little Stitch Eyes waits with rod in hand
Despite the sunlight glimmer-fish that glitter underwater
Her stitch eyes cast a net away to some far distant quarter

Her hook, a thing to catch thoughts on
Her mind, a lure where daydreams shone
Careful, now
The sound of ripples could pull you in
Leave you dreaming, world a-spin

So if you see her standing lonesome, like an empty fisherman’s daughter
Leave her peaceful with the glimmer-fish
Silent at the water.


“Little Stitch Eyes struggles sometimes with direction.”

* * *

The box appears upside-down
But only if you look at it from a certain angle.
If you change perspective: turn around

Step sideways into an Escher painting
And remember that your feet weren’t on the ground.


“She held the rat aloft by its tail. For once, she was in control of the situation.”

* * *

Sniffle-Whiskers sniffs the cheese
Little risks are worth the tease
Nudge it gentle, tug with ease—

The trap claps
Tail snaps
Rat yaps

Sniffle-Whiskers sniffs the cheese
Wagging stump of tail with new unease
Missed his death by mere degrees.


“She wrapped her arms around her to keep herself safe. We don’t all wear armour like hoodies.

* * *

We wear our expressions like a carapace
Emotions crawl like beetles underneath
Buzzing at the cracks of eyes and mouth
Where overspill might split the sheath

Ignore my smiling exo-shell
Displaying dried-out sun-fractured happiness
Note the flash of fluorescent husk
Before I crush the tell-tale beetle abscess.


E. J. Ikin is a British artist known for his eerie urban art. ‘Little Stitch Eyes’ is the latest creation in his surreal character series. Follow him on Instagram here.