Up until the mid 1980s there were scores of radical bookshops in Britain – every major town had one. Many of these booksellers worked together under the mutual banner of the ‘Federation of Radical Booksellers’. The Federation acted as a support network for its members, helping with a variety of practical aspects of bookselling, as well as providing a sense of community. Sadly, as the book-trade hit hard times, the Federation collapsed.
The booktrade has been in a slow decline for a long time now, particularly after the gradual collapse up of the Net Book Agreement throughout the early nineties. The NBA regulated book prices, meaning that booksellers large or small could sell at the same price, and on the same margins.
Today we are left with a fraction of the bookshops that once flourished, with both small independents and corporate chains struggling to stay afloat. Radical booksellers have suffered the same fate as the mainstream shops, and many fine and wonderful shops have closed their doors.
However all is not lost, and there are still some wonderful bookshops out there, working hard to keep progressive books on our highstreets. The Alliance of Radical Booksellers hopes to pick up where the Federartion left off: as an organisation which allows its member booksellers to support each other, promote one another’s work, and sell books together.
One of the first actions taken by the ARB was to create a new book prize for the best political writing: The Bread and Roses Award for Radical Publishing.
In order to qualify as an ARB member, the bookseller must:
-be informed by socialist, anarchist, environmental, feminist or anti-racist concerns
-stock or sell books which inspire, support or report on political and/or personal change in the global, national or local sphere
If you would like to find out more, get in touch with Nik via email: nik[at]housmans.com