GETTING BOOKS: the directory
W&BA cares about preserving and promoting the vital resources represented by independent bookshops, secondhand bookshops and libraries. So here you will find as comprehensive a list of them as we could muster.
Of course there are other ways of getting books. New ones are readily available online, sometime cheaper than in shops. But there’s a hidden cost: between 1995 and 2016 the number of independent bookshops in the UK more than halved – from 1,894 to 867. Things have picked up since, as people perhaps recognise the threat, and bookshops become more innovative (a licensed bookshop in Pinner, a community-run bookshop in Wymondham). Independent bookshops even managed to defy the pandemic: sales rose and at the end of 2020 there were 967 altogether. But we have only five (in Beccles, Diss, Halesworth, Lowestoft and Southwold) and surely we don’t want to lose any of them. (We have though since 2019: Wells in Southwold is now photography only – but Lowestoft has a new one.)
We have chain bookshops as well of course – in Diss, Beccles, Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. It’s up to you, but we haven’t included them in our directory. The exception is Southwold books, a slightly disguised and sometimes controversial branch of Waterstones, but with a particularly independent, local focus.
If you need to shop online, and want to avoid Amazon, there are a couple of alternatives. Bookshop.org provides a virtual shopfront for independent booksellers. And Hive.co.uk directs 10% of the order’s value to a bookshop of your choice.
Secondhand bookshops, too, have suffered, at least partly through competition via the internet. There are no official figures, but our research suggests that there are perhaps half what there used to be along the Waveney and Blyth. And sadly three have closed since last year’s book festival directory – Ann Green in Halesworth, Besleys in Beccles (but see below) and Othellos in Lowestoft. But Beccles has a new one – Books and Crannies. The other competition comes from charity shops, whose overheads are lower. The word from the trade is: give to Oxfam but buy from bookshops.
Book tickets for Two Rivers here
Here are the lists…
Meres Mouth , Mere Street IP22 4AH
From its website: ‘Diss Publishing is a locally run business, incorporated in 1925 and established in 1864, offering a variety of books, stationery, gifts etc to the local community and surrounding areas. We also welcome customers to our warm and friendly coffee shop. We can offer you a wide selection of goods at the best possible prices available to us.
42 Thoroughfare IP19 8AR
Mon-Sat 9-5 (4 on Sat)
We are well stocked with a wide range of fiction, maps, cookery books, travel guides and an impressive selection of local books. The children’s department caters for all ages and reading abilities and hosts regular story-telling and craft sessions. Check out our Facebook page (Halesworth Book Shop) for details of upcoming events, for both children and adults. There is also a large choice of greeting cards, postcards, notebooks, gift-wrap and other stationery goods with items. We also offer an efficient ordering service for new and secondhand books, DVDs and CDs.
Exchange Square NR34 9HH
Beccles Books is the place for quality books at bargain prices. Founded in 2011, we have thousands of titles in stock, most at least 50% off the recommended retail price, and offer the very best in customer service to help you find what you need. We can get order in most new books by the next working day. As well as books, we have a wide range of cards and notebooks, specialising in the beautiful local products produced by Green Pebble Cards as well as Love Country Emma Ball and many more. We are a one-stop destination for books, cards, DVDs and much, much more.
69 High St, Southwold IP18 6DS. Tel 01502 722873
Mon-Fri 9.30-6 (5.30 in winter)
Southwold Books is part of the Waterstones family, but operates with the ethos of an independent shop. Housed in the Olde Bank House, that dates back to the 18th century, the bookshop aims to reflect the eclectic and artistic heritage of this special part of the world. We stock a broad range of titles, from local interest and literary fiction and non-fiction to a packed children’s department at the rear of the shop. We have a thriving book group and we hold literary signings and events throughout the year.
Paper-works* Books and Prints
113-114 High Street
Lowestoft NR32 1HN
New to the historic High Street in Lowestoft, we stock a curated collection of secondhand fiction and non fiction as well as new books by local authors. The bookshop benefits from an interconnecting door with the neighbouring independent coffee shop, Door to the Cosmos. We have seats for browsers and coffee drinkers. Our website www.booksandprints.co.uk has a comprehensive secondhand stock list available for click and collect ordering, and thousands of new books are also available through our affiliation with bookshop.org
[photo credit Bishy Barnabee Photography]
‘Second hand books are wild books, homeless books; they have come together in vast flocks of variegated feather, and have a charm which the domesticated volumes of the library lack.’ ― Virginia Woolf
Olland Bookshop Bungay
22 Upper Olland Street NR35 1BH
Also CDs, vinyl and DVDs
Besleys Books Beccles
4 Blyburgate NR34 9TA
The bookshop itself is no longer open, but the business is still trading
Antiquarian, Norfolk and Suffolk, private press
Books and Crannies
We opened in December 2020 and stock a little bit of everything. We are only small but we are always adding different books to the shelves.
Barnabees Books Westleton
Yoxford Road IP17 3AF
Chapel Books Westleton
The Street IP17 3AA
All week 12-5 (longer in summer)
The Book Shop Great Yarmouth
Victoria Arcade NR30 2NU
Mon-Sat 10-4 (Some Sundays and longer hours in summer)
Military, art, classics
In our area, Norfolk has libraries in Caister, Diss, Great Yarmouth, Harleston and Loddon. Details here
In Suffolk there’s Beccles, Bungay, Eye, Halesworth, Lowestoft, Oulton Broad, Southwold and Stradbroke. They are run, not by the county council, but as a registered charity. Details here
Both counties have a mobile library service.