This week we visited Burley Fisher, a lovely independent bookshop on Kingsland Road – on the borders of Haggerston, Dalston and De Beauvoir. They focus on small press books and do what they can to support local authors. Sam and Jason opened the shop in 2015, after noticing there was a lack in indie bookshops in the area.
Although price wise, independent bookshops may not be able to compete with Amazon, it seems people are becoming more and more conscious about what they buy and where they buy it from and are willing to spend that bit more to support local businesses and make mindful purchases – hence the recent resurgence in independent bookshops. Research showed that in the first half of just 2016, Britons bought more than 78 million books – almost 4 million more than in the same period in 2015. Sales of printed books are now growing faster than those of ebooks. It seems that people are shying away from technology and corporations, and seeking something more real and personal. After all, nothing beats holding a physical book in your hands and the amazing feeling you get when you read the last page and close it. I chatted to Sam, ½ of Burley Fisher.
What did you want to do when you were a child?
“I think I said that when I grew up I wanted to be a man, I set the bar pretty low!”
What does local mean to you?
“It means community.”
What do you like most about this area?
“It’s very diverse, I think that it’s changing quite quickly which is interesting to be a part of. There’s a great community of publishers and writers round here which is great for the shop and I get to meet a lot of very interesting people.”
Where do you source new books/authors?
“People will approach us, but also if there’s a book we think people will be interested in, we will also reach out to them so it’s a mix of both really. You get to know publishers. It gets easier to meet people as time goes on. We buy from all types of places, from big wholesalers and also directly from authors, it all depends on what it is.”
What’s been your biggest challenge so far? How did you overcome it?
“We did a kickstarter campaign. That was quite challenging, getting people behind that.”
In the first year of opening, there was a very successful engagement with local residents and a great response in talking about books and meeting authors. So much so that they ended up outgrowing the initial space! Last year, they decided to launch a kickstarter campaign to convert their basement into a permanent events space which would support independent publishing. The plan was to hold literary events, film screenings, catered events, arts and crafts events (such as ceramics and life drawing). They also wanted the community to be able to hire the space out. The local community pitched in and made it happen. To thank them, they painted the names of every person who pledged on the wall in the new space!