Christmas is fast approaching and the latest shiny hardback releases are on all of our wish lists. But I want you to pause for a moment before you automatically login to your Amazon account. There are lots of other ways to buy books that support creators and independent retailers. They also give you the opportunity to find some extra special gems which you might not have discovered otherwise. Here are my top five ways to be a better book buyer.
ADOPT A BOOK SHOP
Find one that you love and make it yours. It can be a high street shop or an online indie. It can be a big brand chain or a tiny little treasure. My only point here is that you should support booksellers. Their expertise is so much more valuable than any computer algorithm. They can help you to find the perfect books to match your tastes, or those of the person who already has everything. And even if you can’t get into a physical shop, you can always drop them an email, a call or a tweet to place your order. Bookshops adaptability to serving their customers kept many of them afloat during most of the 2020 lockdowns.
Bookshops are also a brilliant place to go to for author events, book clubs and subscriptions. And they often have signed copies or special editions of books that you can’t find anywhere else.
And by supporting bookshops, you’re not only supporting the High Street but also the people who create books. Authors generally earn a percentage of the price of every book they sell. However, if those books are sold for next to nothing by a company with the buying power to drive the price down, the author will see very little reward for their work. UK writers earn an average of £10,500 every year and that is well below the average salary. Children’s author Gabriella Kent recently tweeted that sales of 512 copies of one of her books paid her only £8.06. That’s less than 1.6p for each copy. Independent bookstores do charge a bit more but it means that authors see a fairer income. If you can afford to, it means so much to make bookshops your first place to shop.
If you’re not sure where your nearest bookshop is you can visit www.indiebookshops.com and search their ever-growing map of stores.
If you really can’t get out to the shops there’s a brand-new website which lets you support bookshops from the comfort of your own home. Bookshop.org helps you to find a bookshop that you can buy directly from, or you can just buy through the website. Your order then contributes to a fund that will be distributed between independent book sellers. If you blog about books you can even join their affiliate programme and earn 10% on every sale.
It is important to note that not every independent bookstore has been able, or has chosen, to be a part of this scheme but it is a brilliant way to change how you shop if you do need to buy online.
Hive.co.uk offers a similar service and have been around for a few years. However, they don’t share quite as much of their profits with booksellers.
GO TO THE LIBRARY
Ok, this isn’t a great way of finding Christmas presents but I want to encourage every book lover to use their local library. By doing so you help to create a demand for a crucial local service which offers more than just books. They are safe and supportive places that provide access to expertise and information for anyone who needs it. Librarians, like booksellers, have professional knowledge of what’s available and can always help you to find or order whatever you want to read.
Libraries also provide an important income for authors. Under the Public Lending Rights (PLR) scheme authors and illustrators are paid 9.03p every time one of their books is borrowed from a library. It might not sound like much but it can quickly add up to a decent sum. It not only supplements an income but it shows how many readers are using libraries to find their books.
Around 800 libraries have been closed in Britain in the last decade. Government cutbacks have harmed libraries and reduced the facilities for those who want and need to use them. So show them your love and borrow some books!
E-BOOKS AND AUDIO BOOKS
Access, convenience and preference mean that physical books are not always the best option for every reader. Kindle and Audible do offer a wide and convenient stock, especially as some titles are released as Audible Exclusives and it isn’t possible to find them anywhere else. However, there are alternatives for those who want to find something cheaper and to support alternative vendors.
Audiobooks and ebooks can all be found at Apple ibooks, Google Play Books, Kobo Scribd, and eBooks.com. They all offer a variety of subscription costs and are available in various formats depending on the device you want to use to read or listen to them.
And don’t forget your library! You can borrow ebooks and audiobooks (and magazines) through apps such as Libby, Borrowbox, Overdrive and RB Digital with your library card details.
BUY DIRECTLY FROM THE CREATORS
This has been my favourite Christmas shopping hack this year. Loads of authors and illustrators have their own online shops where you can buy signed copies of their work and other merchandise. Illustrators in particular have well stocked shops with signed editions, prints, badges, t-shirts and more. Children’s authors and illustrators have particularly delightful items so take the chance to find some exclusive treats for yourself or for your loved ones. My particular favourites are Dapo Adeola, Sarah McIntyre and Lydia Monks but there are countless others.
There is no right way or wrong way to buy and enjoy books but if you diversify the places that you buy them from you will support indies, love your library, and become a better book buyer. Happy reading!