By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Forty-four Small Presses, 48 BookstoresAmong the distinguishing contributions of the British Book Awards to the United Kingdom’s industry is the fact that they go well beyond the titular British books with an extensive and committed acknowledgment of the importance of small retailers and presses.
After all, while bookstores’ tables are strewn with books bearing “longlist,” “shortlist,” and “winner” seals—considered so important for sales that a battle of the book awards has arisen in recent years among UK prize programs—the shops themselves get far less frequent recognition for their parts in how those books navigate the market. The Independent Bookshop of the Year Award is a handsome attempt to offer some appreciation where it’s due.
And similarly, the Small Press of the Year Award helps raise the profile of some of the many under-recognized houses that help characterize the British market as one in which all does not happen in the tall buildings. The UK’s independent houses are more robust than those in many other world markets and their names frequently ride these hard-fought awards programs’ longlists and shortlists alongside Big Four and big independents’ titles.
Both of these awards also help punch a healthy hole in the London-centric nature of the UK’s book business because they cast a wide geographical net, sending Publishing Perspectives’ international readership to Google Maps to find out where a city or town or village is set.
As you’ll recall from our report earlier this month, The Bookseller’s British Book Awards drew 40,000 views of their digital awards ceremony in summertime 2020, and are planning another such online outing for this year’s awards, set for May 13.
These bookshop and small-press categories announced on Friday (February 19) have an early winnowing down to be announced on March 17. That’s when the regional and country winners from these shortlists will be named. On May 13, then, what will be announced is the winning bookstore and independent press from those regional and country winners named in March.
And the exceptional conditions created by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, are front and center this year. Comments from the awards’ organizers are rich with praise for both the independent bookstores and publishing companies placed on regional and country shortlists, many having performed valiantly under remarkably challenging circumstances.
In talking about the total 44 small presses going onto the lists, Bookseller editor Philip Jones is quoted, saying, “After a year like no other, the shortlist shows the strength, breadth, and durability of small-press publishing across the United Kingdom and Ireland.
“These businesses, all of them with sales under £2 million [US$2.8 million] and many much smaller, fended off bookshops’ closures, the loss of author events, and the national lockdowns to deliver an incredible set of results with book sales up, diverse publishing on the rise, and new business opportunities taken.
“The shortlist speaks to how driven and agile these businesses are, but also how well supported they are by readers, booksellers, and their authors and illustrators.
“For some there was also targeted support from organizations such as Arts Council England, the Books Council of Wales, Creative Scotland and Arts Council Ireland—money well spent at time of real threat to the sector.”
And speaking of the bookstores going onto the regional and country shortlists, Bookseller managing editor Tom Tivnan says, “Last year was a difficult for the entire books trade but indie booksellers were perhaps at very sharpest end of the pandemic.
“Yet, as we can see by 48 entries on the Independent Bookshop of the Year shortlists, indies tackled the coronavirus restrictions with vigour, creativity and innovation.”
Shortlisted Independent Bookstores 2021
The bookstores in contention this year represent nine region and country designations. The Island of Ireland category comprises both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
- Harris & Harris Books | Clare, Sudbury
- Kett’s Books | Wymondham Niche Comics & Bookshop | Huntingdon
- Red Lion Books | Colchester
Island of Ireland
- Bridge Books | Dromore, County Down
- Tertulia | Westport, County Mayo
- The Company of Books | Dublin
- BrOOK’S | Pinner
- Burley Fisher Books | Haggerston
- Gay’s the Word | St Pancras
- Goldsboro Books | Covent Garden
- Hewson Books: The Kew Bookshop | Kew
- Newham Bookshop | Newham
- Pages of Hackney | Hackney
- Village Books | Dulwich
- Burway Books | Church Stretton
- Five Leaves Bookshop | Nottingham
- The Bookshop on the Green | Birmingham
- Book, Bean and Ice Cream | Kirkham
- Cogito Books | Hexham
- DRAKE – The Bookshop | Stockton-on-Tees
- Forum Books | Corbridge
- Linghams Bookshop | Heswall
- Sam Read Bookseller | Grasmere
- The Grove Bookshop | Ilkley
- The Little Ripon Bookshop | Ripon
- Far From the Madding Crowd | Linlithgow
- Lighthouse – Edinburgh’s Radical Bookshop | Edinburgh
- The Edinburgh Bookshop | Edinburgh The Mainstreet Trading Company | St Boswell’s
- Timberbooks | West Kilbride
- Books on the Hill | St Albans
- Mostly Books | Abingdon
- Our Bookshop | Tring
- Moon Lane Books and Toys | Ramsgate
- October Books | Southampton
- Sevenoaks Bookshop | Sevenoaks
- The Book Shop | Lee-on-the-Solent
- The Margate Bookshop | Margate
- Crediton Community Bookshop | Crediton
- Max Minerva’s Marvellous Books & More | Bristol
- Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights | Bath
- Storysmith | Bristol
- The Snug Bookshop and Cafe | Bridgwater
- Book-ish | Crickhowell
- Chepstow Books & Gifts | Chepstow
- Cover to Cover | Swansea
- Griffin Books | Penarth
Shortlisted Small Presses 2021
The 44 presses on this list are in eight regional or country categories.
- Firefly Press
- New Welsh Review
- Parthian Books
East and Southeast England
- Guppy Books
- Canbury Press
- September Publishing
- SRL Publishing
Island of Ireland
- New Island
- Merrion Press
- Little Island
- The Lilliput Press
- Banshee Press
- Vika Books
- Little Toller Books
- Really Decent Books
- Ad Hoc Fiction
- From You to Me
- Sandstone Press
- The Wee Book Company
- Charco Press
- Rymour Books
- Scotland Street Press
- Little Door Books
- Otter-Barry Books
- Dahlia Publishing
- Sweet Cherry Publishing
- And Other Stories
- Vertebrate Publishing
- Bluemoose Books
- Carcanet Press
- Comma Press
- Fly on the Wall Press
- Magic Cat Publishing
- Muswell Press
- Out-Spoken Press
- Boldwood Books
- Orenda Books
- Chelsea Green Publishing
- Europa Editions
- Scallywag Press
- Fitzcarraldo Editions
The Coronavirus in the United Kingdom
At this writing, the 6:23 a.m. ET (1123 GMT) update of the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center sees 4,117,739 cases in the UK’s population of 67 million, with 120,593 fatalities.
These numbers currently hold the UK at No. 5 in the world for both caseload (behind the United States, India, Brazil, and Russia) and death tolls (behind the States—now less than 3,000 deaths from the nightmarish 500,000 mark—followed by Brazil, Mexico, and India).
For BBC News, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, today (February 21) confirms hospital admissions are falling “much more sharply” than in the first wave of the pandemic. This is being credited to “‘early data’ showing a reduction in transmission in people who have had a coronavirus vaccine, the health secretary has said.”
This factors into strategies the Boris Johnson government now must consider in sorting a route out of protracted lockdown. Johnson is to speak to the issue Monday (February 22).
Reuters Paris reports today that truck drivers returning to France from Britain will now be excused from a coronavirus test if they spent less than 48 hours in the UK.
Pan Pylas in a Friday (February 19) write-up reports for the Associated Press London that “The Office for National Statistics said in its weekly infection survey that one in 115 people tested positive for COVID-19 in England in the week to February 12. In the previous week, the rate stood at one in 80. A similar picture emerged in the other three nations of the UK — Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”
More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.