Forty-eight pandemic-defying stores have been named in the nine regional and country shortlists for the Gardners Books-sponsored Independent Bookshop of the Year (IBOTY) at the British Book Awards, a.k.a. the Nibbies, in their quest to be crowned the top indie in the UK and Ireland.
The shortlistees range from shops which have been in situ for more than a century—such as Grasmere's 134-year-old Sam Read Bookseller—to a number of start-ups that have been trading for less than two years, such as The Margate Bookshop, Tring's Our Bookshop and Ramsgate's Moon Lane Books and Toys.
The shops will now progress to a second round with regional/country winners announced on 17th March. Those nine finalists will advance to the Nibbies virtual ceremony, to be held on 13th May.
Tom Tivnan, The Bookseller managing editor and chair of the IBOTY judges, praised the near half-century of indies. He said: "Last year was difficult for the entire books trade but indie booksellers were perhaps at very sharpest end of the pandemic. Yet, as we can see by the depth and breadth of the talent among the 48 entries on the shortlists, indies tackled the coronavirus restrictions with vigour, creativity and innovation.
"These shops serve vastly different communities and have their own specialties, but if there is a through-line, it is all used the challenges of 2020 to increase stock ranges, expand retail channels and broaden customer bases through social media. The bottom line is clear: indie bookshops will continue to thrive, no matter what is thrown at them."
Despite the difficulties of 2020's lockdowns, last month the Booksellers Association reported that indie bookshop numbers rose for the fourth consecutive year. Fifty new indies opened in 2020, though 44 closed, for a net gain of six. BA membership for indies rocketed to 967, up from 890 in 2019.
The IBOTY shortlists boast four former overall winners: Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights from Bath (which has won the award twice), Linghams Bookshop from Heswall, Nottingham's Five Leaves Bookshop and last year's winner, Crickhowell's Book-ish.
The London, South-East England and the North of England regions all have eight entries; Scotland and South-West England have five; Wales and East of England have four; while Ireland and the Midlands have three apiece.
All three shops are first-timers on the Ireland shortlist, which has not occurred since the inaugural IBOTY award 16 years ago. And if Dromore, County Down’s Bridge Books—led by owner Lesley Price, a 2020 Bookseller Bookshop Hero—takes the crown, it will be the first ever winner from Northern Ireland.
The shortlists in full are listed below with more infomation with links to each shop here.
East of England
Harris & Harris Books (Clare, Sudbury)
Kett's Books (Wymondham)
Niche Comics & Bookshop (Huntingdon)
Red Lion Books (Colchester)
Island of Ireland
Bridge Books (Dromore, Co Down)
Tertulia (Westport, Co Mayo)
The Company of Books (Dublin)
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)
North of England
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)
The Snug Bookshop and Cafe (Bridgwater)
Chepstow Books & Gifts (Chepstow)
Cover To Cover (Swansea)
Griffin Books (Penarth)
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