In January, we were delighted to host the first annual meeting of the Bookselling Research Network (BRN), bringing together those from industry, associations and academia that share a common interest in the history, practice, and culture of bookselling. Despite the challenges of the last two years, the BRN has been quietly building momentum, and it was wonderful to bring together interested parties from across the globe -– including Colombia, the USA, Europe and Japan -– to discuss the aims of the BRN.

The motivation for setting up the BRN was based on the realisation there was a lack of a space to connect the book trade and academia effectively. The Network was established to address this, and is open to all those interested in bookshops, creating a place to share projects, histories, seek support or collaborations, and advocate for the value of bookselling and bookshops across the world.

The aims of this first BRN meeting were to agree the Network’s objectives and identify the research themes relevant to the needs of the bookselling community, with these topics then anchoring the next events (in March, May, July 2022), which will build up to a bookselling-focussed conference at Hay on Wye in September.

The meeting was kicked off by Meryl Halls, Managing Director of the Booksellers Association of the UK & Ireland (BA), who discussed current bookselling issues. Despite many challenges facing the sector, Meryl’s talk was one of optimism, which highlighted how bookshops adapted and embraced change, with the BA offering a range of support to its members throughout the pandemic. Meryl stated that “bookselling has a positive cultural impact on the community and wider society – books matter and so bookshops matter”. The success story is that bookselling is resilient, with the UK gaining 111 new independent bookshops during the pandemic. By pulling together, Meryl stressed, the sector will continue to thrive.

You can view Meryl’s talk in full here:

Meryl Halls Presentation at the BRN Meeting 210122

Next, the group discussed the themes that should anchor the next BRN events. The breakout groups produced lively discussion and covered many topics, but it was agreed that the outputs could be effectively captured into three main themes:

  • History
  • Current practice, including challenges, training, and international comparisons
  • Value

Our next event will therefore be on the theme of Bookselling History. We will share further information about this event in the coming weeks, but please save the date: Friday 18th March, 2 pm – 3.30 pm GMT on Zoom. This event is open to BRN members and non-members, and there will be no charge for attending.

If you are interested in all things bookselling, and would like to join us, please complete the form here:

By Sofie Roberts

Sofie Roberts, Graduate Assistant for the BRN. Sofie is a final year PhD student at Bangor University, researching indigenous Welsh Cinema, and has a First-Class Honours undergraduate degree in English Literature with Film Studies gained at Bangor University. Sofie has nine years' experience working in academic institutions in roles involving working closely with businesses, networks, and industry. Sofie is from the foothills of Snowdonia and is a first language Welsh speaker.