With Independent Bookshop Week around the corner (16-23 June), check out these local literary legends
Borders was a haven for me during high school - somewhere my best friend and I would leave our teen angst behind and escape into those alternate worlds we call books. Snagging a weekend job there at seventeen, then, I felt pleased as punch.
Unfortunately, Borders (which also operated under Books etc.) wouldn’t even see me through college, as the 69-branch UK chain closed just before Christmas 2009. Reasons were complex - poor economy, the rise of eBooks, internal struggles - but the name on everyone’s lips, as our beloved bookshop became ever emptier, was ‘Amazon’.
Bookselling had been an uneven playing field since the 1990s, with the collapse of the Net Book Agreement (which disallowed selling below the RRP), but this was an unprecedented threat.
When even large chains like Borders couldn’t compete with the e-tail giant’s aggressive bulk discounts - not to mention convenience - it’s unsurprising small independents didn’t have a hope: according to The Booksellers Association, 102 indies closed in 2009, at a rate of two per week.
While indies had been dwindling since 1995, some wondered if this could finally spell the end.
Fortunately, the sector clung on and 2017 saw its first growth in 22 years - largely due to a massive surge of support. Why? It seems that nearly losing independent bookshops forced us to appreciate their value. While they can’t compete with the likes of Amazon and supermarkets in price and convenience, they have other things to offer: local events, personalised recommendations and a refreshing sense of community.
Now, Independent Bookshop Week is rightly championing these bookish beacons, with an annual celebration spanning events to bookshop crawls and the IBW Awards. This year taking place 16-23 June, the annual scheme is part of IndieBound - a campaign to help promote healthy high streets, shopping local and the benefits of a diverse high street - and includes over 400 bookshops.
With that in mind, why not pay these Manchester indies a visit?
Bravely bucking the downward trend, sisters Christine Cafun and Lyndsy Kirkman opened Chapter One opened in 2015: immediately gaining fans with a curated book selection, quirky furnishings and onsite cafe. Chapter One also hosts several community events, from life drawing to reading groups.
Best feature: Sweet treats to munch as you browse
, 19 Lever Street, M1 1BY
THE DIDSBURY VILLAGE BOOKSHOP
This second-hand bookstore is tucked away behind The Art of Tea, keeping owner Bob (a retired professor) in a steady stream of hot chocolates and ensuring visitors enjoy the twin joys of lunching and literature under one roof.
Expect to find everything from beautifully-bound Persian poetry to old British classics and contemporary foreign fiction.
Best feature: Owner Bob to slake your literary thirst with a sprinkling of wry humour
, Inside The Art of Tea, 47 Barlow Moor Road, M20 6TW
Threatened with closure in 2014 due to the proposal of a new bar next door, this family favourite remains after hundreds turned up to protest. Current bestsellers are guaranteed, along with many other titles arranged by genre and a selection of related merchandise such as Paperblank notebooks and fun 3D bookmarks.
Best feature: A great children’s area complete with toys so harassed parents can browse in peace
, 506 Wilbraham Road, M21 9AW
This award-winning family bookshop - one of the ‘top 50 in Britain’ - offers titles for adults and children (new and second-hand) plus stationery, gifts and educational toys and games. Staff can order any book in print, many with a next-day delivery service, and there is a well-equipped meeting room for community happenings.
Best feature: Events including an adult book club, and storytelling for children
Urmston Bookshop, 72 Flixton Road, Urmston, M41 5AB
It may look like an uninspiring warehouse at first glance but venture inside this second-hand emporium to find a dizzying inventory of books and magazines - proving why that old adage of not judging books by covers rings so true.
Best feature: Over 40,000 titles to order direct or online
, Unit 15 Wearlee Works, Longley Lane, Sharston, M22 4WT