Changing The World One Book At A Time With The Secondhand Bookshelf

If you’re anything like me, there is nothing better than a book subscription box! There are a lot of small businesses out there doing really inspiring and powerful things when it comes to books and one of them is The Secondhand Bookshelf. 

The Secondhand Bookshelf allows our old books to have a new lease of life by providing one-off book subscription boxes that can be ordered once every quarter. Each box contains a preloved secondhand book, which has either been donated by a fellow book lover or picked up in a local charity shop. Each box also includes some beautiful sustainable items which have been handmade with love by talented local artists. 

The Secondhand Bookshelf also specialises in recycled stationery, ethical bookish gifts and books about slow living and mindfulness, so you can be sure that all your bookish needs are met in a sustainable manner. 

They also offer you the chance to have a blind date with a pre-loved secondhand book in which a novel will be hand-wrapped with some intriguing clues on what the book is about featured on the front! All of these items are available on their website, so please do go and check out what is on offer! 

This fabulous business allows those who want to ensure they are making a positive impact on the planet to take that initial step, one book at a time. I had the opportunity to discuss everything secondhand books and blind dates with the owner, Giv…

What inspired you to create The Secondhand Bookshelf? 

The short answer: my passion for books and my love for purchasing things secondhand. 

The slightly longer story: It was a complete ‘spur-of-the-moment’ and ‘why-on-earth-have-I-not-done-this-before kind of decision. I work in the e-commerce department of a company that sells calendars, stationery and gift and while that role is so much fun, I’ve always toyed with the idea of having something that is completely my own. I have always loved connecting with people online and bringing them closer to the products they love, but I did question myself a lot and wondered what I could bring to the table that is different to what’s already out there.

During the last year, I watched a colleague pack up her things and go self-employed, and I thought, there has to be something similar that I can do, too! I wasn’t quite as bold as her and still work full-time next to the Secondhand Bookshelf, but it made me think about the things I could possibly achieve. The idea of being in charge of my very own online shop kept growing on me and in the end, I simply couldn’t resist!

I have always been passionate about books and reading, and so, it seemed natural to strive for a product that would incorporate that! I loved the idea of book subscription boxes but often felt that a lot of the gift merchandise included would only lie around and gather dust (at least in my case!). I loved the idea of book blind dates and the surprising and joyous effect they can have on others, and I am a passionate advocate for buying things secondhand, so it just seemed to make sense to combine these aspects! I thought I can’t be the only one that enjoys these things, but I also hadn’t seen something like that around, so I felt like I was entering a niche not many had explored yet.

So, all in all, the Secondhand Bookshelf was born out of the idea to create something meaningful. Something that lets others remember how important it is to slow down and take a minute for themselves in this hectic and fast world. And something that emphasises the small changes we can make and shows that living a greener life can be simpler than we think.

Why is it important to you that all your products are ethical and sustainable? 

This will sound rather extreme in the first moment, but there is only one planet we can currently live on and we should, therefore, take care of it as best as we possibly can. 

We already consume so much, and whether we like it or not, that is to some degree hurting the environment and the people around us (think fast fashion, etc.). Unfortunately, no product can ever be 100% ethical or sustainable – that’s simply not possible. The only ethical or sustainable product there is, is the one you didn’t buy in the first place.

However, by choosing to only purchase more ethical and more sustainable items, we’re trying to show that there are other options out there, that you maybe weren’t even aware of. When you do decide that you need a new bookmark, for example, we want you to consider the impact this will have on the environment and the workers who produce the products and so on.

What makes The Secondhand Bookshelf book subscription box unique? 

The most distinctive aspect is probably that we choose secondhand books rather than brand new books. Why should millions of books go to waste, when they could offer someone else the pleasure you experienced when you read that book for the first time? Also, new books can be quite expensive, and some people simply may not be able to afford much, so secondhand books offer an accessible way to enjoy literature nevertheless.

And then when we think of traditional book boxes, it is common that each theme or release features the same book and gifts. At the Secondhand Bookshelf, however, each book is tailored to the person the box is for, making it a truly unique experience every time. You won’t know which book you will be receiving and also, you will be the only person receiving that title in particular.

I think what else makes the Secondhand Bookshelf unique is how closely we work with local makers and small businesses. As a new and small business ourselves, we know what it can mean to support each person involved in a company, brand or business. And what really makes us happy is when we know that our order might cause someone to perform a little happy dance!

What genre of books do you offer? 

Everything and anything! We don’t limit the choice we offer but do ask customers to give us some ideas regarding their preferences when they place their order. We ask for things like favourite genres and authors to get an idea of who we’re choosing a book for, and in 99% of the cases, we always find something that that person will like and enjoy! 

Our choice of books is also strongly dependent on the variety available in the charity shops, as this is where we mainly shop for secondhand books! At this point, I would also like to add, if you do have any books that you would like to give a new home, please get in touch – we’re always on the lookout for pre-loved books and rely on donations and our charity shop finds to offer the best secondhand books available.

I love your Meet The Maker feature on your website, how do you pick the local artists you work with? 

Thank you so much! It was incredibly important for us, not just to include small businesses in the subscription boxes, but to also show who is actually responsible for packing your orders and replying to your messages. It’s been so much fun to talk to different makers and to hear their stories!

At first, we try to think of products that match the season we’re planning for and that we would like to feature in the box. Then we start to cast out the net and search for local businesses and makers that produce the things we are looking for, and that involves lots of browsing on Etsy! Often, we also stumble upon makers while browsing social media and looking for inspiration. The internet is a great place full of wonderful makers if you know where and what to look for!

Do you have any plans to launch other bookish gifts? 

We choose selected products from our boxes to be featured in the shop, too, but at the moment we mainly focus on the single book blind dates and subscription boxes. 

One thing we are looking at, however, is making an actual subscription service available. This may seem a little confusing, but at the moment, we sell the boxes on a one-off purchase basis as we weren’t sure how popular this idea would be. In the future (soon, fingers crossed!) we would love to offer an array of subscription options ranging from 3 to 12-months.

We’re always open for new ideas, so please do get in touch at shop@theliterarytraveller.co.uk if you would like to work with us.

The Secondhand Bookshelf is dedicated to making vital changes in the way we shop and consume products, and if this is something you are also passionate about, be sure to check them out on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!

For all my lovely followers, Giv has kindly created a coupon code for us, which ensures 10% off any order over £25 (excluding sale items)! The code is STUCKINTHEBOOK10 so be sure to check out what they have to offer! I received my first box today and I couldn’t be more happier with all the beautiful gifts inside, and my secondhand book was one I’ve been wanting to read for SO long! You do not want to miss out on this little treat to yourself!

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