Friday, 12 April 2013

Independent spirit

At the end of 2012 there was widespread outrage at the revelations about tax avoidance by big companies.  For me, the inclusion of Amazon on the list was the straw that broke the camel's back.  I had long been concerned about their labour practices, and was never happy giving my hard earned cash to a corporate behemoth when I could have been supporting the little guys, but like many people I found their prices and the ease of ordering just too damn tempting.  The discovery that, despite £3bn sales in the UK in 2011, Amazon had paid not a penny in corporation tax was enough to finally get me to break the Amazon habit.

Buying from other online sources or from high street stores and independent shops has inevitably led to me spending more money, however the difference has been fairly neglible (not least because, without the seemingly endless Amazon Recommends list to browse through, I am less likely to keep adding things I don't really want - and certainly don't need - to my basket).  And I'd happily spend a bit more to get that smug, glowy feeling of knowing I'm occupying the moral high ground!

So now, with Record Store Day fast approaching, I thought the time was ripe to let you know about some genuine alternatives to Amazon.

Photo via weheartit

Fopp is, strictly speaking, not an independent retailer, having been acquired by HMV a few years back. No online store either, but if you're lucky enough to live in a city - including Cambridge, Nottingham, Bristol and Manchester - with a shop, then I am hugely jealous. They always have a massive range of CDs as well as DVDs and books, and most stock is at bargain prices. I'm a bit concerned as to what impact HMV's travails will have on the brand.

Record Store is, according to their website, run by music lovers for music lovers.  It is a great source for both dance and alternative music on CD or vinyl, and their prices are extremely competitive (I've just snapped up Tame Impala's second album for £5.99, just a few pence more than on Amazon).

Rough Trade, set up in 1976 and running as a record label and music retailer ever since, has bricks and mortar shops in London and an online presence.  Good for hard-to-find indie and rarities.

And in Leicester, Rockaboom - while a shadow of its former self - remains a great place for a browse of a weekend, and I often come away a few pounds lighter.   Their back catalogue stuff is particularly good value (usually just a fiver), and even new releases are rarely much more than Amazon.  I just wish their range was wider.

Photo via weheartit

Online, I now use The Book Depository for most of my literary needs.  They have low prices and free (and fast) delivery: Amazon who?

Powells is my favourite bookshop in the world, in my favourite city in the world.  They offer international shipping, low prices... and for me, the thrill of receiving a parcel from my darling Portland is second to none.

Of course, there still exist many excellent high street independents which need your support.  My local is Quinns in Market Harborough, which I always enjoy visiting.  Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath is high on my list of places to visit.  And although not an independent, I think Waterstones has really raised its game in recent years.

I would love to hear about your recommendations.  What are the good independent book or record shops near you?  Or have you discovered a great online source of entertainment?


  1. I really want to give up Amazon too but do admit I often struggle not to use it if it's the cheapest place to find something :-/ However, eBay is always a good option too!

    1. Ooh, I'd never think of buying books or music from eBay - good call!