About The Guide

Hello! We are Sonja and Ivan. And this is our Bookstore Guide - an amateur guide to book shopping throughout Europe. We hope this Guide will help you find the book(stores) you are looking for.

Books and Beans, Aberdeen

Books and Beans logo

Where? Aberdeen, Scotland, UK

Recommended by
Amy Orr

Amy said: "I wanted to let you know about a fantastic bookstore in Aberdeen that I think deserves some recognition... I am just a big fan of it having shopped there many times before. It is called 'Books and Beans', and is just off Union Street in Aberdeen, UK. It has a huge collection of fiction and non-fiction, far more than you ever see displayed (they have databases for searching what they have in their stock room, retrievable at any time). My particular favourite part of this bookshop is the sci-fi section, which is excellent and far bigger than you'd expect from a normal, non sci-fi orientated bookstore."

This addition to our Guide from Aberdeen in Scotland is a rather hip secondhand bookstore slash café, located in the very center of the city. Books and Beans kicked off in 2003 and, with the help of their excellent service and unique setting, has gained quite a reputation among the locals and tourists alike. It is also the fist independent fair trade café in the city (besides their flavorful coffees and hot drinks, the menu also offers hot homemade soups, salads, sandwiches and various baked goodies).

The ground floor of Books and Beans is occupied by beans i.e. the café itself, while the books are stocked upstairs. To make your bookbrowsing experience more pleasurable, the upper floor is furnished with cozy armchairs, where you can take your coffee with you. Furthermore, the bookstore/café is equipped with 6 personal computers with internet access.

And the stock? Well, we're certain that Books and Beans will not leave you feeling aloof: 15 000 titles selected on the basis of quality of the book and popularity of the author, yet also selected to suit everyone's taste. They are praised for having a collection of books on anything from comics through fiction to law. Their database is searchable, so you can find any title you are interested in immediately. Or you can simply take your time and browse for your pleasure.

Also important to note is the fact that Books and Beans holds readings (seems that poetry readings by Aberdeen's Dead Good Poet's Society are quite popular with their visitors) on a regular basis. Oh, if you thought that's it, you're wrong: the bookstore is also child-friendly - with high chairs, crayons, various games, a children's section of books and even a children's menu in the café. Seems like they've thought of everything.

Books and BeansBooks and Beans
22 Belmont Street
Aberdeen AB10 1JH
Books and Beans Aberdeen


Website: http://www.booksandbeans.co.uk/

Phone and Email:
01224 646 438

Working Hours:
Mon-Sat 9:30-16:30
Sun 10:30-15:45

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CEU Bookshop, Budapest

ceu bookshop logo

Budapest, Hungary


Recommended by: Agi Paszabi

Agi said: "The name refers to the Central European University, which is in the next building, and which housed the shop too until a couple of years ago. The shop is an all English, mostly non-fiction and academic book shop, not that big, but definitely well-stocked. They have books on: Philosophy, History, Cultural and Media Studies, Linguistics, Sociology, Law, Political Science, Economics, Anthropology, Business and management, Finance, and Hungary and Eastern Europe. They have Hungarian literature translated to English. And the books of CEU Press (mostly on obscure and not very popular topics of Eastern and Central Europe...). And some literary fiction. They accept orders. Quite helpful in that respect. Prices differ, from around 3 euros to 36-38, but academic books sometimes can be rather expensive. Like Black's Law dictionary for example... They also have some newspapers (Economics, Newsweek, Frankfurter, People, Budapest Sun etc..) and postcards and calendars too. Mostly about Hungary. All in all, friendly place."

The fact that Budapest is a city with a surprisingly extensive and diverse offer of English language bookstores is nothing new to those of you who took a look at our Report from Budapest. Still, the newest addition to our list for this city covers a different field of the book market - the academic books. And as Agi's recommendation suggests, it does so pretty thoroughly.

According to the information available online, this bookstore has the same owner as another bookstore with a great selection of new titles - Bestsellers. It is also closely affiliated with the Central European University founded by George Soros and it is the primary vendor of the titles published by the CEU Press in the city of Budapest. The titles published by CEU Press are especially focused on the history, politics, economy and social issues of the Central, South-Eatern and Eastern Europe, or generally the countries which were under the influence of the Soviet Union during the Cold War years.

All in all, the CEU Bookshop seems like a great place for all the students in the city in search of academic titles in English, as well as for those visitors who are interested in getting their hands on translations of Hungarian authors or academic publications dealing with various issues of the region.

ceu bookshop budapestCEU Bookshop
Zrínyi u. 12
1051 Budapest


Phone and Email:
+36 1 327 3096

Working Hours:

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Independent Booksellers and the Fixed Book Price: a Horror Story?

By guest blogger Kim Heijdenrijk

Kim HeijdenrijkWe are glad to introduce the first contribution to our series of articles focused on the current state of independent bookselling by a guest blogger – Kim Heijdenrijk. Kim is the author behind Kimbooktu, a blog on miscellaneous book related subjects, cannily subtitled 'Gadgets for book lovers'. The Netherlands based and born, Kim has had an interest in Dutch, English and American lit ever since her teenagehood, making her into an avid book collector. As for her professional background, she has worked as a journalist for an extended period of time, but she has also been directly involved in the bookselling business through her affiliation with one of the biggest independent booksellers in the Netherlands. Presently, she has switched to the field of marketing, but even a short look at her popular bookish blog proves that she remains perfectly up-to-date with the latest trends and events in the world of books and literature.
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The majority of European countries have a fixed book price. Some of them are regulating the prices of books for over a hundred years now; other countries are relatively new to the concept. The Fixed Book Price Agreement (FBPA) means, in short, that offering books at competitive prices is forbidden. No big deal for the big book chains, but a possible horror story for the independent bookseller.

After a gap year, I worked for an independent bookstore for a while. This bookstore is one of the largest, if not the largest, of the Netherlands. The shop is situated at a fantastic location and has a very good assortment of books in every category. Above this, the departments are maintained by people who truly have a love for books. All of this has become their ‘specialty’, the reason why people go there instead of a big chain. After a while, I got the responsibility of the English department. This meant that I would meet representatives of publishers who would try to sell their titles.

Las Vegas Reading RoomIt was then that I learned how much is earned on a book. Or better said: how little. And this particular shop got quite a big margin, since it is so large and well known. I was shocked. When speaking to my boss about it, he merely said: “Why do you think we also have a music store, a coffee shop and an office supply store?”. Point taken. It is almost impossible to survive on the sales of books alone. Even with a relatively big margin.

This particular Dutch bookstore is very fortunate. A success story if you will. But only because of the business strategy they chose. Books as a core business, other products to stay afloat. How many independent booksellers are in the position to do this? How do you get people to buy at your shop instead of the big chains that are on every high street? The obvious - if not the only - way is to do what supermarkets do. Have a sale. Lower the prices of particular products, in this case particular books. A very good idea, if the Fixed Book Price Agreement did not forbid it.

Let me explain what the FBPA exactly is. Publishers and booksellers of several different countries have agreed at some point to fix the price of new books that are sold. The reason why this agreement came to existence is to make sure booksellers compete with the books they sell, instead of the prices they sell them at. This in order to make sure that non-best sellers have a bigger chance of being bought. That made me think for a while too. I will explain later.

Almost half the time, the fixed price agreement has been turned into a law. On the first of January 2005, it became a law in my country (The Netherlands). Even though there was an agreement since 1923, it created a big stir in the book market. Other countries that have a fixed book price by law are for instance Argentina, Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Mexico, Portugal and Spain.

Thalia GermanyThe first country to have some sort of fixed book price was Denmark. This country has fixed prices on books ever since 1837. Germany followed in 1888. It took a while for other countries to catch on. More than a few countries that had a fixed book price by law reversed it, like Australia, Finland, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden and Finland. The last one is to re-enact the law this year.

Now the idea behind the FBPA. The idea is that bookshops make the most money on bestsellers. These books, like Harry Potter or the Da Vinci Code, cost little effort to sell. And hardly any advertising money for the bookseller, because these books get enough exposure. Without the fixed book price, a bookshop could offer these books at competitive prices to lure readers into their shops. With the fixed prices, the booksellers loose this advantage.

The publishers want the bookstores to promote lesser known - more specialized - books instead of the ‘high flyers’. They want to create ‘bibliodiversity’, as is stated in a paper by the International Publishers Association. To make sure that the shop owners practice this innovative word, the publishers offer a guaranteed/larger margin on the bestsellers. This way everybody wins. The publisher knows that the ‘big’ books will sell anyway and therefore they can give a good profit margin to the bookseller. The bookseller should be able to fund the promotion of\ the ‘small’ books because of this. And they live happily ever after…

Selexyz DominicanenIndeed, happy endings only exist in fairy tales. There are bookstores and there are bookstores. A lot of bookstores are part of some sort of chain. These stores have one communal department that buys books and promotes them. You do not have to read the entire math section of the store to understand this is cheap. These chains buy in high quantities, so they get good margins from the publishers. The chains do not only spend their money more efficiently, they make more of it too.

How different is the story for the independent bookseller. The book freak that started his little shop out of passion. Little shop. Little money. Little margins. No big PR department. This entrepreneur is the buyer, the PR person and sales person all at the same time. And does it for the love of books. But mostly because he cannot afford to hire people for these specific tasks. Nobody starts a bookshop to become rich, you just do not earn enough per book. Bookstores are born out of passion. At least the independent ones are.

The so called ‘benefits’ for these little shops can only be viewed as ludicrous. The fixed book price would protect them from the competition of supermarkets in their area that sell books at bargain prices. For this reason the independent bookseller in less convenient places would have a better chance of survival. I would advise the creator of this benefit to pick up an economy book. The buyer of books in the supermarket is, of course, an entirely different person than the one purchasing a book in a bookshop. The books available at supermarkets are there for the impulse buyer. A person who does not read a lot and heard from a friend that he should read a certain book.

I try to buy most of my books at independent bookstores now. Even though I am often tempted to go into one of those chain stores. It is convenient because they are everywhere, but it makes me feel good to help a struggling independent bookstore. Hey, that’s the benefit of the fixed prices; you know the books cost the same anyway.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fixed_Book_Price_Agreement
Centraal Planbureau: http://www.cpb.nl/nl/pub/cpbreeksen/cpbreport/2002_2/s2_4.html
European Writers Congress: http://www.european-writers-congress.org/upload/2962004103825.pdf
European Booksellers Federation: http://www.ebf-eu.org/paper/Book%20Trade%20in%20Europe%20updated010206.doc
International Publishers Association: http://new.internationalpublishers.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=29&Itemid=58

Images used: (Author's archive)
1: One of the few bookshops in Las Vegas. This independent bookstore in the Mandalay Bay hotel on the Strip is now closed.
2: Thalia is a chain of bookstores in Germany, one of the first countries that introduced the fixed book price.
3: The Dutch chain Selexyz got the opportunity to turn a church in the city of Maastricht into a bookshop.
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More articles from this series:
An Insight into the Current State of Independent Bookselling – An Introduction

Independent Bookstores in Danger of Extinction – Who is to Blame?

Chain Bookstores: The Rise, Struggle and Downfall?

Independent Booksellers: What Can Be Done To Help?

An Interview with an Antiquarian Bookseller: The Caretaker

Literaturhaus: Books, Words and Much Much More
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Back to the full list of Articles

Book End, Bakewell

Book End logo

Where? Bakewell, Derbyshire, UK

Recommended by
Ellie Potten

Book End is located right by the 700-year-old stone bridge in Bakewell, Derbyshire. The bookstore itself started as a family run business - a collaboration of a mother and a daughter, partners and managers, Ellie Potten and Lynne Wilson.
The history behind Book End is not as happy as the final outcome. Ellie unfortunately had to leave university due to health problems and it is during that period that both her and her mom discovered that they wanted a change, a new start so they took the plunge in April 09 and signed the lease at Bridge House, a well-known historical building in Bakewell. A decade later, Ellie no longer owns the store.

Today, Book End Book operates in order to raise funds for Bakewell and Eyam Community Transport.  All books are donated. Wide cross section of fiction and non fiction. As well as second-hand books of all genres, there is a stock of new goods including: cards, gift wrap, There are also greetings cards. This second hand book shop is run primarily by volunteers who are friendly and helpful.

Book End outsideBook End
Bridge House
Bridge Street, Bakewell
Derbyshire. DE45 1DS
Book End Bakewell bookshop


Phone and Email:
(01629) 814994

Working Hours:
Thu-Mon 10-17

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Independent Bookstores in Danger of Extinction – Who is to Blame?

The question of independent bookselling and its current situation can be approached from several perspectives, possibly leading to a wide variety of conclusions. Before we start pointing the accusing finger in any specific direction, let’s agree on a common basic premise, which will enable us to focus on more specific aspects later on. This goes as follows – Independent bookstores currently find themselves in a very difficult situation, which in many cases threatens their very existence.

independent bookshopsThe emphasis in this statement is placed on the word independent, as this segment of the book market seems to be facing serious difficulties adapting to the dynamics of the market forces and the changes in business models and modes of customer behavior. Bookstore business, although many of us are reluctant to think of it as such, is just a business as any other. Which literally means that every single decision has to be viewed and understood through the prism of its financial profitability. The independent bookstore, as any other independent business in general, has had to deal with major changes and dramatic developments in the economy and society, which occurred during the last few decades of the 20th and intensified in the first decade of the 21st century.

In order to explore the reasons contributing to this situation, we decided to start from the simplest questions related to the book market as a whole and later on to deal with more specific aspects defining the circumstances of the indies’ existence. Using this approach, we hope to question the prevailing assumptions and opinions and also evaluate the effects of several of these changes from the perspective of people directly involved with the independent bookstores scene, but also from the point of view of ordinary book-buyers.

Many a voices are complaining about a general lack of interest in books, but this statement is very questionable. Although it is absolutely true that reading has to compete with all other sorts of entertainment, which seem to be a lot more popular especially with the younger generation, the final result isn’t as bad at all. In fact, the overall numbers of books sold yearly are showing a slightly growing tendency in most of the major markets. However, some interesting shifts in the composition of the vendors as well as the types of sold books remain hidden behind these seemingly optimistic numbers. Unfortunately, none of them favors the independent booksellers.

shakespeare and companyNew players have entered the book market and perhaps a bit surprisingly, they present a threat both to the indies and the huge chains. A short look at the recent evolvement of the British book industry demonstrates these noteworthy trends very well. According to the Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom, 83 indies were closed in the UK in 2008, while there were 66 openings within the same year (Neill 2009). This is nothing to cheer about, but it doesn’t support the most catastrophic scenarios either. Another statistic from the UK market for the period between 2003 and 2007 reveals that the volume of indies' book sales has actually increased by 6% during this time, while chains’ sales went down by 3% (Neill 2009).

These numbers are not very likely to improve in 2009, with the additional burden of the consequences of the financial crisis, but it also seems quite safe to say that at least for now, independent bookstores are resisting the resulting pressure much better than many would anticipate. In no way does this mean that the problems independent bookselling is facing are to be underestimated. All we’re saying is that instead of demonizing the competition and discussing the funeral ceremony of independent bookshops as a done deal, these tough times require lots of daring and a constructive spirit.

books in supermarketsThe momentum appears to be slowly shifting from the chains, which seemed destined to become the dominant force on the book market in the first half of the 1990s, as they are currently facing unexpected problems and dealing with the question of reinventing their business strategy. The winners? Online retailers (read Amazon) and the supermarkets, which have enjoyed a steady rise in market share in the past few years and this trend is very likely to persist. This is also linked with the type of books which are bought at a higher rate, since the offer of books in supermarkets is almost exclusively focused on potential best-sellers (popular fiction, biographies, etc.).

Everything still seems more or less ok up to this point. According to the market theory, more competition means more options for the customer to choose from and thus better services at lower prices. The question is, whether this equation can be applied to the specific field of bookselling. From a strictly pragmatic and materialist approach, one can easily argue in favor and find the arguments to support this theory. All the forces present in bookselling – be it chain bookstores, supermarkets selling books next to stands with tomatoes (food for the soul, right… but we’re not sure if this metaphorical value can actually make the actual experience of bookshopping in such conditions any less depressing), or on-line bookstores offering the possibility to browse among .jpeg images of the books’ covers – have undoubtedly managed to push the prices down. But this also came at a price and according to many, one that was too high.

Please beware that this post doesn’t mean to suggest that independent bookstores are not in a difficult situation, or that the omnipresent chains don’t contribute to their decline. Our aim was simply to point out that the question posed in the title of this article – who is to blame? – is not answered as easily as it could seem. From our position, the needed daring approach consists in not being satisfied with the prevailing assumptions without questioning each and every one of them. That’s why we decided to explore each of the factors that represent a threat to the independent bookstore scene individually and in depth within the upcoming articles of this series. We hope that you will keep us company along the way.

Neill, Graeme (2009): Hard year for indies as numbers dwindle, available online:(http://www.thebookseller.com/news/76068-hard-year-for-indies-as-numbers-dwindle.html)
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Images used:
1: The Abbey Bookshop in Paris (Bookstore Guide archive)
2: Shakespeare and Company in Paris (Bookstore Guide archive)
3: http://www.insidebookpublishing.com/?page_id=48
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More articles from this series:
An Insight into the Current State of Independent Bookselling – An Introduction

Independent Booksellers and the Fixed Book Price: a Horror Story?

Chain Bookstores: The Rise, Struggle and Downfall?

Independent Booksellers: What Can Be Done To Help?

An Interview with an Antiquarian Bookseller: The Caretaker

Literaturhaus: Books, Words and Much Much More
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Back to the full list of Articles