Last week was Independent Booksellers Week (I.B.W.) in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland from Saturday June 28, 2014 to Saturday, June 5, 2014. This year saw the introduction of the IBW Bookshop Crawl on Saturday, July 5, 2014, as shown in this bibliophile’s vlog (video-blog).
This celebration of independent bookstores is part of a larger effort to defend the physical bookshop in the British Isles. According to the Web site, “Independent Booksellers Week is part of the Books Are My Bag campaign, and seeks to celebrate independent bookshops in the UK and Ireland. We do this with events, celebrations, reading groups, storytelling, author signings, literary lunches and face painting! Your local bookshop will have their own way of celebrating, and we encourage you to visit to celebrate with them.”
According to a separate Web site for Books Are My Bag, “BOOKS ARE MY BAG is a nationwide campaign to celebrate bookshops. This collaboration between publishers, bookshops and authors and is the biggest ever promotion of bookshops. For many people bookshops conjure fond images of book readings, in-store cafes and delight at the discovery of a new author. In fact, 56% of all book buying decisions are made by consumers in a bookshop and high street bookshops (both chains and independents) still account for almost 40% of books bought by consumers. Yet, many high street bookshops are under threat.”
Part of the campaign involves encouraging readers to go to bookstores, take pictures of themselves (“selfies”) with Books Are My Bag canvas bags, and post them on Twitter, as explained in this vlog.
This is the second year for the campaign. It “was devised pro bono by M&C Saatchi and was inspired by the precepts of Lord Maurice Saatchi’s Brutal Simplicity of Thought.”
The B.B.C. cited The Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom and Ireland, Limited (abbreviated as The BA) as stating sixty-seven independent bookstores closed in the U.K. last year and only twenty-six new independent bookstores opened. The number of independent bookshops in The BA dropped from 1,028 to 987.
The BA announced the winners of the Independent Booksellers Week Book Award 2014 (IBW Book Award), which, for the first time this year, included three categories: Adult, Children’s Fiction, and Children’s Picture Book. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson won in the Adult category.
The BA stated, “The judges praised the ambition, wit and breathtaking clarity in the way Kate Atkinson evokes wartime Britain and English family life in Life After Life, a novel that spans the most turbulent events of the 20th century in the run up to its second cataclysmic war.”
Ms. Atkinson stated, “I am absolutely delighted that Life After Life has won the IBW Book Award. Independent booksellers have been a vital part of supporting my books and creating the essential word of mouth for all great writing. They are so knowledgeable and read so much. I am enormously grateful for all the work they continue to do.”
Flora & Ulysses by Kate Di Camillo, illustrated by K.G. Campbell, and published by Walker Books won in the Children’s Fiction category. The BA stated, “Flora & Ulysses tells the unusual story of Ulysses, the poetry-writing squirrel, in a book that the judges said is brimming with warmth, wit, charm and quirky humour – with both child and adult appeal either as a shared or more challenging solo read.”
Ms. Di Camillo, a resident of Minneapolis, stated, “Flora & Ulysses is a story about superpowers and poetry and friendship. And booksellers have consistently given all of those things to me. I am absolutely thrilled with this honour. I am (truthfully) a little bit undone. Thank you.”
A First Book of Nature by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Mark Hearld, and (also) published by Walker Books won in the Children’s Picture Book category. The BA stated, “The inaugural Children’s Picture Book category award was given to Nicola Davies for A First Book of Nature, praised by the judges for its inspiring text, stunning illustration, superb design and quality production – a ‘perfect marriage of words and stunning illustrations.’”
Ms. Davies stated, “I couldn’t be more delighted about this prize from the people who know the most about books. Indy bookshops are the future because they offer guidance through the sea of books we don’t want to read to the ones we DO, instead of just throwing us in without a float to compass like the big sellers do.”
Publishers nominated books. Booksellers drew up shortlists that consisted of ten titles in the Adult category and twelve each in the Children’s Fiction and Children’s Picture Book categories.
There were two separate panels of judges. Each consisted of authors, booksellers, and journalists. Both panels were chaired by Meryl Halls, Head of Membership Services for The BA.
Ms. Halls stated, “The winning books were chosen after much debate around each of the very strong, and varied, shortlists. They are all perfect titles for independent booksellers to be enthusiastic about and hand sell. The judges have chosen fantastic winners, and we are delighted to be able to showcase these books during IBW.”
IBW Booksellers Collectibles are a range of books that are sold exclusively by independent bookstores during Independent Booksellers Week. This year, Icon Books released a booklet by Mark Forsyth, The Unknown Unknowns: Bookstores and the Delight of Not Getting What You Wanted on Saturday, June 28, 2014. It sold for £1.99.
For The Independent, Forsyth wrote “The Unknown Unknown, by Mark Forsyth, book review: Where to find answers to questions you didn’t ask,” posted on Sunday, June 29, 2014. The booklet is shown in this vlog.
According to Icon Books, “Mark Forsyth explores in this essay the most valuable thing about a really good bookshop. Along the way he considers the wisdom of Donald Rumsfeld, naughty French photographs, why Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy would never have met online, and why only a bookshop can give you that precious thing – what you never knew you were looking for.”
 In the United Kingdom and several Commonwealth countries, far more towns have High Streets than Main Streets. As a matter of fact, High Street is the single most popular street name in the United Kingdom and Main Street is third. In Ireland, parts of Scotland, the United States of America, and the British parts of Canada, towns the major roads are more likely to be named Main Street. The term High Street conjures an image in the minds of British people very similar to the one conjured in the minds of Americans by Main Street: the widest road running through the downtown of a town or village, lined with professional offices, banks, shops, and restaurants. Whether or not the main street in a particular town in England, Wales, and Scotland is actually called High Street, the term is used as short hand for the business district.