As the nation turns to reading to escape the uncertainty and stresses of living through a global pandemic, the multinational giant, Amazon, has seen a boom in sales. Ordering books at the click of a button and having them delivered to your doorstep has never been so easy. However, the culmination of the first lockdown, the closure of “non-essential” retail, and the second lockdown, has threatened the longevity of independent bookshops.
Amazon is guaranteed to still be here once we have seen the back of this virus – independent bookshops, however, are not. They are not only a place to buy books but are key components of local high streets, towns, and cities across the country. They are community hot spots and provide far more than just a book buying service. A conversation with a bookseller who talks with love and admiration about a book they’ve just finished and can make personalised recommendations is something Amazon can never offer. In-person browsing is a unique experience, offering escapism and comfort to people of all ages – it’s a chance to lose yourself in the wonder of worlds not yet experienced.
Independent bookshops need us during this pandemic to break the Amazon dominance. Supporting them requires a little more effort than a few clicks, but it’s always worth it. Who wants empty towns and bookshops in their high streets in the future?
Raising awareness for these wonderful places is certainly a way to support independent bookshops, but many are still taking orders online during lockdown. With that in mind, let me introduce you to this wonderful, unique bookshop. I was first taken there by my Grandad as a young teenager, and have tried to frequent the shop since, despite it not being right on my doorstep.
Nestled in the seaside town of Felixstowe, which is home to the largest container port in the UK, is a gem of a bookshop called Treasure Chest. Located in the heart of the main town, it is a great place to escape from the sharp sea air. It’s been established as a bookshop for over 40 years and Martin Bott, the owner, is one of the UK’s leading dealers in second-hand and antiquarian Transport books, but the sheer range of stock is enough to keep the keenest of bookworms busy.
Treasure Chest must be experienced to the fullest in person, but they do have a thriving online store, with a catalogue of over 9,000 books featured on their website. Their books can be ordered and mailed anywhere in the world.
What I love about Treasure Chest is their specialisation in second-hand books. I’ve had an affinity for second-hand – over brand-new books – for a long time now. Their smell, look, and feel are far more appealing than a shiny new book that has never been loved before. Additionally, I feel more at ease with a second-hand book, I’m not afraid to break the spine or to damage it – as it has been eased in by another reader before. Second—hand books are also more affordable and environmentally friendly.
All in all – second-hand books are fantastic, which is why visiting Treasure Chest (online and in-person when it’s open) is a joyful experience. As soon as you enter, you are hit by the nostalgic, comforting array of used book smells that warms the essence of your very being.
Clicking away on the internet and having books delivered to your home is convenient, but it can never beat in-store browsing, and this bookshop is incredible for that. It is deceptively big – the owner even describes it as a “Tardis”. From the outside, it looks small, but you can easily lose yourself in it. Books are piled up on the floor and overspilling from the shelves. It’s chaotic – but overflowing with ideas, information, and new worlds to explore. The act of browsing a book shop, but particularly this one, is relaxing and a form of essential escapism. It does not compare in the slightest to online browsing, which is why it is so imperative that we continue to support independent bookshops.
Visiting Treasure Chest is an experience, as the browser fully loses themselves in discovering new titles, they never knew they needed. It’s a browsing experience like no other, and true addition to the otherwise, sleepy town of Felixstowe. It’s a place of escapism from the sometimes loud and noisy sea air, and the crowded tourists that flock to the beaches in the summer. It’s a hallmark of the small community and would be immensely missed if it didn’t emerge on the other side of the pandemic.
Words by Violet Daniels
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