Independent bookshops can almost seem like an endangered species in a time when chain shops like W.H. Smith and Waterstones dominate the High Streets. Book lovers need not despair, however. A visit to Hertfordshire will reveal that there are still a few surviving – and thriving – independent bookshops offering an alternative to the usual shelves stuffed with misery memoirs and celebrity biographies.
Hertfordshire’s independent bookshops are an eclectic group, ranging from shops stocking new books to those specialising in antiquarian and secondhand books and maps.
A Guide to Independent Bookshops in Hertfordshire
The bustling market town of Hitchin is home to two independent bookshops, The Book Bug and Eric T. Moore Books. The Book Bug, located in the town’s arcade, is a secondhand bookshop offering both paperbacks and hardbacks at reasonable prices. The shop buys secondhand books and stocks a wide variety of subjects, both fiction and non-fiction.
A visit to Eric T. Moore Books is a must for the serious book lover and collector. Established in 1965 and located on one of the oldest streets in Hitchin, the shop has a huge stock of secondhand and antiquarian books that can take hours to browse through. The shop specialises in books on local interest and also has a large selection of antique maps and prints. The shops owners are very knowledgeable and helpful with customer queries.
Letchworth Garden City, famed for being the first Garden City, is home to David’s Bookshops, a large and sprawling bookshop that sells both new and secondhand books, as well as music and DVDs. The ground floor of the shop is devoted mainly to new books, stocking a good selection of both fiction and non-fiction. The shop also has a huge stock of secondhand books, ranging from inexpensive paperbacks to rare and collectible antiquarian books. The first floor of the shop is treasure trove for the serious browser. Prices are reasonable and the ever-changing stock is sure to offer something of interest to everyone. The shop has a very good ordering service if you cannot find what you are looking for. David’s Bookshop is a Letchworth institution with strong links to the community, hosting a variety of special events throughout the year, such as author talks, debates and lectures.
Welwyn Garden City, the second Garden City, has its own independent bookshop, Maher The Bookseller. This bright, modern shop was established in 1995 and is located in the Howard Centre at the centre of town. It offers a stock of over 20,000 new books and provides a 24 hour book ordering service if you cannot find what you need.
David Ford Books at the Gilmark Gallery is located in Hertford near Hertford Castle. The shop consists of two floors with the first floor filled with good quality secondhand and antiquarian books covering all subjects, as well as old postcards and Ordnance Survey maps. The ground floor of the shop is devoted to antique maps and prints, specialising in English county maps with an emphasis on maps of Hertfordshire.
The recently opened Quiller Books, located in the historic coaching town of Buntingford, is a small secondhand book shop offering secondhand and antiquarian books at reasonable prices, as well as a selection of greetings cards, prints and maps.
Western Front Books in Ware specialises in military, history and non-fiction, but also carries a good general stock of secondhand books.
Two charity bookshops of note are the Iain Rennie Bookshop in Tring and St Claire’s Hospice Book and Music Shop in Bishops Stortford. These shops sell secondhand books with all profits going to the Iain Rennie and St Claire’s Hospices.
Independent Bookshops Near Hertfordshire
Nearby Bedfordshire is also home to several independent bookshops including The Eagle Bookshop and County Town Books, both located in Bedford. The Eagle Bookshop is a large shop filled with secondhand and antiquarian books covering a variety of topics and is well worth a browse. County Town Books is located on Bedford’s High Street and sells new books, with an emphasis on books about Bedfordshire. Just down the road in Kempston, Mary’s Bookshops sells secondhand books and music in support of the Sue Ryder Care Home.
Whether you are a serious collector or just love to browse, the independent bookshops of Hertfordshire offer book lovers the opportunity to explore a wealth of interesting books, both old and new, in unique, off the beaten path surroundings.