Part 1: A resolution to be more sustainable
I recently read a book about books. Or, more accurately, a book about selling books. ‘The Diary Of A Bookseller’ by Shaun Bythell is a read I’d recommend for a number of reasons.
- It made me finally watch ‘Black Books’, a Channel 4 comedy I’d been hoarding in my Netflix list for quite a while, which brought inordinate joy. It’s an irreverent series in a similar vein to Father Ted, kind of like a more grown-up Inbetweeners but with books everywhere.
- Sometimes, you need a book where there is no significant action and drama. For a read to be gentle, to me at least, is no bad thing!
- It opened my eyes to an industry in crisis, something which I’m sure has only been compounded in recent months by the pandemic.
You can buy a copy of the book here – I will give more details about this link later in this blog, and in the second part, coming soon. However, for legal reasons I must disclose that it is an affiliate link to bookshop.org meaning that it is free to folow the link but if you make a purchase after following it, I will earn a small comission at no extra cost to you (you will also be supporting independent booksellers across the UK.)
As I’ve grown up, I’ve made various conscious choices around sustainability and social conscience. I buy teabags that don’t contain microplastics, I don’t send clothes to landfill, I support small businesses where I can. But little did I realise, one of my great passions and the way I explored it, was contributing to the gradual destruction of hundreds of small businesses.
I love to read, and I love books: to be surrounded by them is a bizarre comfort I can’t quite explain. But the industry giant Amazon and even my perennial favourite Waterstones, are swallowing up the independent booksellers one by one. With their vast empires, the former two can afford to undercut the ‘indies’ with low prices, quick delivery times and multibuyu offers in a way that single-branch independents are simply unable to.
I’m not immune to the draw of Amazon Prime, in fact it was a regular thing for me to indulge in the near-instant gratification of the ‘Buy Now’ button, only to receive a shiny new tome a day or two later. But since becoming the owner of a micro-business myself (you can visit my Etsy shop here, and my instagram @classroomdreamsbymissb) my social conscience and desire for a more sustainable choice have increased considerably.
As I’m confined to home though (thanks, covid) it wasn’t easy as googling local options and roadtripping to catch all the independent bookshops like Pokémon. However, in googling, I did find an online option, one created for the purpose of competing with Amazon.
Bookshop.org launched in the US in January 2020, and by November, when its UK counterpart emerged, it had already raised $7.5 million dollars for US independent bookshops. Once you register (for free) on this platform, you can find an indie near you and choose it to receive the percentage from your book purchases, or you can add to the communcal pot which supports bookshops around the UK.
The site is user-friendly and way less visually cluttered than the overlord it aims to challenge!
You won’t find the rock-bottom prices and postal guarantees you’ll find elsewhere. Pure and simple, this is because these don’t support the survival of the book industry. So you will probably find yourself paying a little bit more, but is that such a bad thing, when you’re helping to maintain market choice by supporting the ecology of the book industry?