New alliance ready to fight for independent book shops

More than 130 independent booksellers have joined a new alliance to promote their sector and give them access to the same tax breaks as large retailers.

Lord John Bird, founder of the Big Issue magazine, is backing the Independent Bookshops Alliance. He described it as a "social Amazon".

He said the alliance was crucial to support the fight for literacy, back libraries and "breathe life" into local high streets.

"If we can help level the playing field for these lantern bearers of civilisation, we will.

"We need to get behind independent bookshops because they are not really profitable, but act as community hubs, encouraging children to read.

"We must protect and proactively help these centres of social good. We must try and get communities to adopt them, for local authorities to see them as a plus in their boroughs and cities, for publishers to see them as equals, and we must link this fight to the battles to save our libraries and also to enhance schools' campaigns to make more of our children literate."

In 2016, Lord Bird warned the government about the damage of illiteracy across Britain and the crisis facing public libraries and independent bookshops.

The Big Issue launched a campaign last year to help give those who need it most access to books to improve literacy and help to tackle poverty.

Simon Key, founder of the Big Green Bookshop in London, has become the figurehead of the movement after penning a post on his blog outlining his plans to give indie sellers a louder voice in the industry.

"There have been other attempts at this before but the difference in the past is that the idea was to bring down giants like Amazon and Waterstones - we want to level the playing field.

"It is hard running an independent bookshop, but I'm excited about the idea, and I think what is really pleasing is that the whole book industry, from authors to publishers to wholesalers, seems to be excited about it too."

Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, said: "Bookshops are to readers what galleries are to art-lovers. They are our leisure spaces, our tourist destinations, the places we go to browse and receive inspiration.

"Independent bookshops need to be given a louder voice and the same opportunities as retailers in the sector to sustain such a superb cultural offer.

"The Independent Bookshops Alliance will help bookshops find that voice, and find ways to place more books into the hands of more people, and sustain the presence of independent bookshops around the country."

There are several hundred independent bookshops across the UK and, in a reverse of recent trends, more opened than closed last year.

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