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Independent Bookshops

February 25, 2021


The Independent Bookshop Community 


When did you last experience tranquillity? Hopefully, the answer is ‘recently’ because it’s a precious commodity in these times of uncertainty and change. But if your answer is ‘don’t know’, we have a treat for you. Because tranquillity is precisely how independent bookshops are often described. And we’re about to take you on a journey through them. So, take a moment to hit the pause button and join us as we explore the refuge of independent bookshops.

Incredibly, the experience begins before you even step through the front door. Many independent bookshops boast heritage architecture and iconic qualities. And they continue to exude it as you step inside. As you do, be sure to pause and breathe deeply – there’s nothing quite like the smell of books to calm the senses. An oasis for those who love words and storytelling, you’re likely to find titles stacked every which way, into every crevice. This is part of what gives independent bookshops their one-of-a-kind quality. It’s easy to lose time among their shelves, tables, and ad hoc stacks, and the experience is a rare treat.

The staff you’ll meet in an independent bookshop tend to have extensive knowledge of authors, titles, and genres. So, make sure you take advantage of their expertise. It’s a lovely opportunity to resist the urge to ‘Google it’ and instead make a connection with someone. These kinds of interactions are becoming rarer in the retail environment, but a connection with others is vital for our wellbeing. Aside from the pleasure of chatting with a knowledgeable stranger, there’s the thrill of discovering an unexpected treasure. Trust us, they’re hiding around every corner and behind each book pile!

Commonly open late and hosting local events, independent bookstores can be the heart of their communities and have the power to bring people together. Supporting them is rewarding – and easy. Many have online shopping available, so don’t hold back! And while jumping online and placing a book order is fast and easy, it’s also worth popping by in person. In-store, you’ll receive personalised service and experience the relaxation of strolling the floor, discovering new authors. The most important part of supporting a locally owned, independent store is that your hard-earned cash goes straight back into the community.


Here are a few of our favourites:

Book Haven, Newtown, Wellington
A maze of shelves, Book Haven is a literary delight. Providing a home for books and book lovers since 2003, the store was started by a former teacher and a former CIO. Today, Book Haven books are sent all over the world. Described as ‘your neighbourhood second-hand bookstore’, Book Haven stocks an extensive range of genres including fiction, literature, lifestyle, nonfiction, children’s, rare, vintage, collectable, and New-Zealand specific. If you’re not in the region, visit them online where you can explore the catalogue and purchase with ease. Their knowledgeable staff are known for their extensive knowledge and can be contacted via email or phone for a chat about all things book-related.

Time Out Bookstore, Mt Eden, Auckland
It was 1988 when Time Out first opened its bookstore doors to local bibliophiles. The shop has since become a hub for their book-loving community. Book clubs and literary events are often hosted upstairs, above the shop. The staff here live and breathe literature and have been hand-selected for their passion and diverse knowledge. This winning combination is evidenced by the several bookseller awards Time Out has won. They can help you find the perfect book in store or track down what you’re looking for if it isn’t on their shelves. For those unable to visit in person, their online store is always available. Book bundles and their subscription options should keep you well-read.

Smith’s Bookshop, The Tannery, Christchurch
One of the longest-running bookshops in New Zealand, the original Smith’s was established in 1894. While its original location is unknown, the was a staple on Manchester for decades. Renowned for knowledgeable and friendly service and the way it delightfully overflowed with books, maps, sheet music, and other treasures. The store was damaged beyond repair in the February 2011 Christchurch Earthquake and was subsequently relocated to Tannery Emporium. A heritage building housing many boutique stores, the Tannery is well worth a visit. Smith’s second-hand legacy was also relocated to the Tannery while new books were added along with an online shop.

Piccadilly Books, Avonhead, Christchurch
Described as ‘an oasis of calm’, Piccadilly Books is stocked full of great reads. From best-sellers to literary works that you’ve never heard of but will absolutely love, the shelves of this store are bowing under the weight! And if their book selection becomes overwhelming, you need only ask their staff for direction. The Piccadilly team has hand-picked every book – along with a network of experienced publishers and well-read customers. Which brings us to their reputation for considerate service – both in person and online. Look no further if you’re seeking books, magazines, greeting cards, stationery, and gifts!

Dead Souls Bookshop, Princes St, Dunedin
If the name of this bookshop isn’t intriguing enough, the dark Edwardian frontage this bookstore resides behind is sure to draw you in. Named for Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol’s satirical novel, this store is a Dunedin highlight. There’s something for everyone on the Dead Souls shelves, with 20,000-odd titles to choose from in-store alone. As specialists in second-hand books, Dead Souls are doing a brilliant job of selling good quality pre-loved books – perfect for avid collectors and the environment alike. As you browse, owner Dean Harvard can be found handcrafting on his press where he runs a small publishing operation. Independent and locally owned, Dead Souls is the perfect place to lose yourself.

Whether you’re a self-confessed bookworm or hunting down that perfect gift for a friend, supporting independent bookstores is the way to go. Days are made more interesting when we shop local and embrace the novel. Especially those that contribute positively to our local communities. Whether ordering online or shopping in-store, there’s nothing quite like the smell of a new book!