It is a cloudy autumn day and you’re wandering through cobblestoned streets. A cheery shopfront catches your eye. You open the door, a bell rings, and a slightly musky smell of leather, ink, and paper hits you. You are greeted with a comforting smile. Multicoloured book spines surround you—a bright installation from floor to ceiling. You pace, browsing around strategically-located coffee tables, which showcase neat stacks of best-sellers and staff-picks with pretty covers. If you are a bibliophile like me, this cosy bookshop feels like home.

Leakeys Bookshop Inverness. Image by Leamington Books via https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Leakeys_Bookshop_Inverness.jpg

On Saturday 9th October 2021, book lovers like me headed to their local bookshops to celebrate Bookshop Day. Bookshop Day was launched in 2013 as part of the Books Are My Bag campaign (run by the Booksellers Association) to support and promote bookshops in the UK and Ireland. This is a day to celebrate all bookshops, including high street retailers such as Blackwell’s and Waterstones, as well as independent bookshops. The small city of Edinburgh, for example, is host to a range of lovely and quirky indie bookshops, such as Golden Hare Books, the Portobello Bookshop, Lighthouse Books, Toppings, and the Edinburgh Bookshop, to name a few. And what better location to celebrate Bookshop Day than a UNESCO City of Literature?

Having lived in Edinburgh over the past decade, I was already familiar with many of these wonderful shops. However, it was the very first assignment that I had to do as a Publishing student at Edinburgh Napier University that revealed just how many bookshops exist in the city and the range of literary events that they offer. A fictional book tour exercise allowed me to meet some lovely booksellers, such as the staff from Porty Bookshop and the Edinburgh Bookshop, who were happy to answer my many questions and share their bookish knowledge. Thus, having been so warmly welcomed into the world of indie bookshops, I was more than happy to participate in Bookshop Day.

What is special about Bookshop Day?

Bookshops all over the UK celebrated with new store openings, creative window displays, and by hosting a range of literary events. Edinburgh itself was taken over by a series of colourful billboards featuring a beautiful design from award-winning illustrator Dapo Adeola, as well as the aptly chosen catchphrase ‘Choose Bookshops.’

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The nationwide campaign was heavily promoted on social media using the tag #BookshopDay, with authors, publishers, booksellers and readers engaging with the campaign. Bookshop Day 2021 also saw an interesting collaboration between Books Are My Bag and TikTok, which welcomed influencers and BookTokers to participate in the celebration and encourage their followers to do the same. Was the campaign successful? As reported by The Bookseller, booksellers across the UK did experience record-breaking sales.

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Why does it matter?

In today’s market-driven world which largely relies on online shopping (and considering the recent opening of Amazon’s first non-food store in the UK), it is perhaps all the more important for booklovers to support local bookshops. Why? Well, you’ll be funding local businesses and supporting local jobs. You could find a book you never thought you’d read, or you might find the perfect gift. Or you might simply enjoy having a chat with a real person, who might offer an unusual recommendation.

“Because without bookshops, there’s no browsing, and there’s no luck and serendipity and stumbling across something astonishing.” Katherine Rundell, bestselling author of children’s fiction.

Choose Bookshops.” YouTube, uploaded by Bloomsbury Books, Apr 12th 2021, https://youtu.be/z6Obn3onkts

Image by Books Are My Bag: https://booksaremybag.com/BOOKS_ARE_MY_BAG/media/BAMB/POS-Resources/2021_BSD_Choose_Bookshops_Insta-banner_v01-01.png