Well, ladies and gents, this is going to be a bit of a change from our usual ‘independent bookshops’ posts because to be honest, I was a little disappointed – a first for me!
I’m as surprised as you are, possibly more so because I actually braved Storm Dennis for this. I had a few bookshops lined up in central Manchester, namely Chapter One, Manchester Book Buyers, and Paramount Books. I did stumble upon a couple of others, but we’ll talk about those later. Onwards.
This is going to be quick, kids. While this place used to be a bookshop and cafe, it seems they’ve retained the bookshop theme without actually selling books. So this bookshop…is not a bookshop.
It’s weird, and pretty confusing given that their website, Instagram, and Google listing suggest that they do sell books. It literally says ‘independent bookshop’ on their bio.
Call me old-fashioned, but I just can’t come to terms with the fact that books are purely decorative at this place now. That being said, it really is a pretty cafe (great for the ‘gram?) and they do a cracking soy cappuccino. This seems like a lovely place to get work done or study for your next exam – I just think they need to change their name/Google listing to avoid this exact situation.
Manchester Book Buyers
I was excited about this right until I walked into the little nook nestled quite inconspicuously on bustling Church Street. I’m the kind of person who disapproved of dog-earing pages and can’t bear to break spines, so you can imagine how jarring it was when I saw mountains of books piled on top of each other with little to no care.
Covers were bent backwards over themselves, pages squashed into accordion look-a-likes under the weight of their fellow sufferers, and it was near impossible to actually find anything in the mess of it all. Not for me personally, but if you’re in the market for a cheap read and don’t mind the wear and tear, this’ll suit you just fine.
This place was very promising at first glance, and I really liked the quirky fact that you could hear music playing from here before you even arrived. There are a few bits about this place that left me less than interested in actually buying a book, though.
The proprietor seems to have an issue with mobile phones. I spotted no fewer than five signs ordering customers to SWITCH OFF YOUR PHONE! With no reason whatsoever disclosed. Like…why? Is this an aeroplane? Will I get kicked out? Was it made illegal in the 10 seconds before I got here? Not a great first impression, primarily because I don’t like being told what to do.
I stumbled across Magma while having a bit of a wander. It’s one of those artsy-looking bookshops that have quite a limited range of actual books, a huge range of niche magazines, and zines that make me ask the question “who on earth is buying these?”
The section I found particularly alienating here was the zine section – which I’m normally pretty excited about. One of the zines for sale was a collection of screenshots from the Simpsons, printed on coloured paper, and stapled together. No writing. No real substance. Just laziness masquerading as something so profoundly avant-garde that us plebs can’t possibly ‘get’ it.
Anywhere Out of the World
This one was promising, but my excitement faded quickly. There was a single wall of shelves – with a decent range of decently priced second-hand books on them. A table with some ‘reads of the month’ laid out. A decorative old cash register. And that’s about it.
Nowhere to sit in this rather dimly-lit space. No clear indication of who actually works there and who’s come to say ‘hi’ to their friend at work. No acknowledgement from staff when you walk in as a now-befuddled customer. Just…odd. But this one definitely has a lot of potential as a bookshop – it just needs warming up a little, and better customer experience.
The John Rylands Library
Shout-out to my friend Nicola for letting me know this place exists. This made up for the strange disappointment I felt after visiting all the independent shops in a big way. Before you even enter the building, you’ll notice its absolutely stunning architecture; it’s like something out of your favourite Harry Potter book (mine’s Prisoner of Azkaban).
The John Rylands Library is a neo-Gothic beauty that was founded in 1900 by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands – get this – in memory of her late husband. Fast forward to today, and the building now forms part of the University of Manchester and regularly holds exhibitions showcasing everything from illuminated manuscripts to a piece of papyrus said to be the earliest existing copy of the Old Testament.
The library is free to enter, and a real pleasure to walk through and experience as a bookworm. A definite must-see if you’re in central Manchester.
Was I just having an off-day with the bookshops? Are there any I missed that would have made my day? What about bookshops in Greater Manchester? Hit me up in the comments, guys!