Independent Bookstores Vie for British Book Award Honors in Eight Regions

In News by Porter Anderson

With one bookstore reporting a 36-percent increase in business in 2017, almost 40 retailers are put into contention for the Independent Bookshop of the Year prize at the British Book Awards, the Nibbies.

Norwich’s The Book Hive is one of the shortlisted independent bookstores in the British Book Awards’ East England region. Image: Book Hive homepage

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘They Play a Hugely Important Roles’

One of the most hotly contested categories of the 2018 British Book Awards is the Independent Bookshop of the Year honor. These stores are a hardy and vocal constituency in the publishing life of the UK and haven’t taken the rise of online retail competition lying down.

In revealing the shortlists that go into this category—the winners to be announced at the awards gala on May 14—”the Nibbies” organizers recognize eight geographic regions, providing the roster of contenders.

What’s interesting is to see that in a market in which most bookstore prosperity has been relatively flat in the last year, the majority of shortlisted shops showed increased income in 2017. Pages of Hackney, a store in east London, reported a 30-percent increase last year, for example. Linghams in Heswall, Merseyside, 10 percent. The Midlands’ Warwick Books reported sales up 15 percent. And in Stockton-on-Tess, Drake The Bookshop saw a 36-percent jump in revenue in 2017 over 2016.

The British Book Awards are owned and operated by The Bookseller. And in a prepared statement, Bookseller editor Philip Jones is quoted, saying, “What marks out the shops on these shortlists is their energy: these are events-led shops that are hand-selling books, often boosted by author visits.

“They are platforms for the cultural conversations authors and their books can spark, and they play a hugely important role in their communities. Independent bookshops might not have the dominance, the pulling power, the footprint, or the branding of bigger bookshops, but these remarkable shops make it all up in hard graft, expertise and imagination.”

(A note to American readers: The phrase Jones is using, hard graft, has nothing to do with the US connotation of graft as an illegal or unfair gain. Hard graft in British English means something along the lines of “hard work,” a positive. You can read more about this phrase which, oddly, has never really jumped the Atlantic, here.)

At stake is a purse of £5,000 (US$6,981) for the winner, from this award category’s sponsor, the wholesaler Gardners Books.

2018 Shortlist: Independent Bookshop of the Year

London

  • Gosh! Comics
  • The Alligator’s Mouth
  • The Kew Bookshop
  • London Review Bookshop
  • Pages of Hackney
  • Al Saqi Books

Wales and Midlands

  • Five Leaves Bookshop
  • Octavo’s Book Cafe & Wine Bar
  • Kenilworth Books
  • Warwick Books
  • Griffin Books
  • Book-ish

North

  • The Little Ripon Bookshop
  • The Grove Bookshop
  • Linghams Booksellers
  • Drake The Bookshop
  • White Rose Book Cafe

Southeast England

  • Chicken and Frog Bookshop
  • The Bookshop, East
  • Grinstead
  • Mostly Books
  • The Book Nook
  • Red Lion Books

East England

  • Bookmark Spalding
  • The Book Hive
  • Rogan’s Books
  • Kett’s Books

Southwest England

  • Mrs Middleton’s Shop and The Rabbit Hole
  • Westbourne Bookshop
  • Owl and Pyramid
  • Children’s Bookshop
  • The White Horse Bookshop
  • Hunting Raven Books
  • The Edge of the World Bookshop

Ireland

  • The Blessington Book Store
  • Woodbine Books

Scotland

  • The Edinburgh Bookshop
  • Far from the Madding Crowd
  • Golden Hare Books
  • The Orcadian Bookshop
  • The Highland Bookshop

In each region, the nominated shops must compete with each other, so that a single store-per-region stands for the overall title of Independent Bookshop of the Year. In 2017, the winner was The Gutter Bookshop of Dublin.

And as the regional shortlists are released, it’s encouraging to read prize organizers saying that the UK’s Booksellers Association reports a rise in the number of independent bookstores “for the first time in 22 years.”

This year, even more commendations than before have been made available at the British Book Awards, two in the creative arts, and one as an added category on the publishing side. For the first time, an Author of the Year and Illustrator of the Year will be named as part of the “Great People” division. And audiobooks will get their own category in the “Books of the Year” division.

From the London regional group of candidates, Pages of Hackney bookstore is reporting a 30-percent rise in business in 2017. Image: FMcM


More of Publishing Perspectives’ coverage of the British Book Awards is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He is also co-owner and editor with Jane Friedman of The Hot Sheet, the newsletter for trade and indie authors. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook, at London's The Bookseller. Anderson has also worked with CNN International, CNN.com, CNN USA, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and other media.