As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread and Londoners are encouraged to practice social distancing, it’s the small, independent shops who are losing out.
Yet, bookstores across the capital have seen the pandemic as a chance to launch a new initiative: book deliveries by bike.
“Last Friday I tweeted saying if anyone was self isolating, I could bring them a book. I kind of figured that we would probably have to close, so I wanted to see if that idea had wheels or legs,” Sam Fisher of Hackney’s Burley Fisher Books tells the Standard.
“Everyone’s been really supportive of it and it’s been lots of fun, getting lots of exercise,” he laughs.
At the moment, there’s just two or three of them taking it in turns to deliver books around the London borough of Hackney – an area Sam didn’t realise was ‘rather big’ until now.
“The past couple of days we’ve had guest authors slots on Twitter as well,” Fisher explains. “Yesterday we had Max Porter. People would tell him the last book that they read and he would recommend a book based on this and then we would post it out. This is another thing that we’re doing.”
So what kind of books are people reading in isolation? “They are definitely looking for long books, big books, big stories. I suppose books that will kind of take them out of the flat that they’re stuck in. Mostly fiction, I think people want a bit of escapism at the moment,” Fisher says.
It’s not just Hackney that the team is delivering to, it’s UK-wide. Simply email the team (firstname.lastname@example.org) about the book you want and they can post it out. Fisher says they will be delivering books for as long as they can. “As the situation changes every day we’re not really sure if we’ll still be allowed to do it, but I’ve been really grateful so far. Obviously in the beginning we were quite worried about what we were going to do so we’ve been grateful to the community for supporting us. If it’s something they continue to want then we will continue to provide the service.”
Burley Fisher Books is just one of the independent bookstores dotted around London currently offering delivery, below we detail others pitching in.
Burley Fisher Books, Haggerston
From the people behind Camden Lock Books, Burley Fisher Books is an independent bookshop and cafe in Haggerston. While the store is currently closed, it’s accepting email orders and biking them to locals in self isolation in Hackney. For those outside the East London borough, simply email them your order and they can post it to you.
To order, email email@example.com and visit burleyfisherbooks.com
Daunt Books, various London locations
One of central London’s most beloved bookshops is also offering delivery in the local area during this self isolation period. Its five London locations, including the original Edwardian bookshop on Marylebone High Street, is delivering locally free of charge and shipping orders UK-wide for free if the customer spends over £40.
To order, visit Daunt Books contact page for the shop closest to you dauntbooks.co.uk
Brick Lane Bookshop, Tower Hamlets
Specialising in fiction, London-based books, non-fiction, poetry, travel, classics and children’s books, Brick Lane Bookshop has closed temporarily but is offering free delivery within Tower Hamlets and can post anywhere in the UK. It’s also encouraging those at home to enter its short story competition, as it’s looking for new, exciting and diverse voices. First prize is £1,000 and the winners and long listed entrants’ stories will be published in the Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize anthology in October 2020.
To order, email firstname.lastname@example.org and for more on the short story competition, visit bricklanebookshop.org
Pages of Hackney, Hackney
Nestled on East London’s Lower Clapton Road, Pages of Hackney stocks an eclectic selection of modern and classic fiction, political, environment, art, cookery and children’s books as well as second-hand books. The physical store is currently closed until the end of March, but it is accepting orders via its email with £1.50 delivery or free delivery when you spend over £10.
To order, email email@example.com and visit pagesofhackney.co.uk
Dulwich Books, West Dulwich
An award-winning bookstore that has been serving the local community for three decades, while Dulwich Books is currently still open, they are offering free delivery in the local area for those in self isolation and can offer same-day delivery if the book is in stock.
To order, call the shop on 0208 6701920 (who are also happy to make recommendations) or email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit dulwichbooks.co.uk
Stoke Newington Bookshop, Stoke Newington
Sitting pretty on Stoke Newington High Street since 1987, earlier this week, Stoke Newington Bookshop tweeted: “If you find yourselves stuck at home, unable to go out, we can supply your book and jigsaw needs. Just email us, or phone for a chat and recommendations, and we can deliver locally or post to further away.” It has since had four offers of volunteers wanting to help deliver books to the local community and the store remains open until told otherwise.
To order, email email@example.com and visit stokenewingtonbookshop.co.uk
South Kensington Books, South Kensington
Offering free local delivery and £2.50 delivery for up to 1kg of books further afield, South Kensington Books was recently shortlisted as Indie Bookshop of the year at The British Book Awards. It stocks new releases like exclusive Independent Bookshop editions’of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light and has sat at 22 Thurloe Street since the 1940s.
To order, email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit kensingtonbooks.co.uk
Newham Bookshop, Newham
Established in 1978, half of Newham Bookshop is dedicated to children’s books while the other half stocks an eclectic collection – from bilingual dictionaries to books on social studies and fiction novels. Currently closed, it is delivering books to those in self isolation along with a host of volunteers.
To order, call 020 8552 9993 between 10am and 5pm, email email@example.com and visit newhambooks.co.uk
Pages of Cheshire Street, Shoreditch
The sister shop to Pages of Hackney, Pages of Cheshire Street stocks books written by women, trans and gender diverse writers. At the top end of Brick Lane, Pages of Cheshire Street will deliver in the Shoreditch area and home delivery is just £1.50. The store has also recently set up a subscription service where it will deliver a hand-picked fiction or non-fiction book each month for £79 per year (equating to just £6.50 a book).
To order, email firstname.lastname@example.org and visit pagescheshirestreet.co.uk
The All Good Bookshop, Wood Green
A cooperative bookshop in Wood Green, The All Good Bookshop is currently delivering to locals and offering pick up orders as well. The store opened in 2019 after the local bookshop closed down and the owner, Tim, wanted a space where the community could shop for books. Now located on 35 Turnpike Lane, simply email or tweet your order and they’ll see what they can do.
To order, tweet @allgoodbookshop and visit allgoodbookshop.com
Pickled Pepper Books, Crouch End
A specialist interactive children’s bookshop in Crouch End, it’s currently offering a ‘Pickled Pepper Book Fairy service’ with free delivery for those in self isolation and it will also send mail deliveries UK-wide and internationally. It recently tweeted: “To the people sending us their self isolation book orders. Thank you. Thank you for giving us those little rays of sunshine at the moment – it means so much.”
To order, tweet them at @pickledbooks, email at email@example.com and visit pickledpepperbooks.co.uk
Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town
Offering free home delivery in the Kentish Town area for those self isolating or who can’t leave their homes for any other reason, Owl Bookshop is also offering a ‘takeaway service’ for those who can go outside, to pick their ordered books up at the shop’s door.
To order, call 020 7485 7793 and visit owlbookshop.co.uk