Readers with inquiring minds who seek something other than chain bookstores will want to check out Dead Ink Books on Smithdown Road in Liverpool.
It’s not every day that an independent bookstore opens its doors for the first time. Add in a cost of living crisis, the well documented struggles of indie bookshop owners, and a world where the written word has to compete with the booming digital and visual markets, and this is a bold move. Also, as I discovered at the launch, what makes this store so unique is that the literature available inside is difficult to find elsewhere.
Meanwhile, the shop’s quirky and memorable name is reminiscent of obscure book titles which have become recognisable classics. But where did the name come from? Nathan Connolly, director of Dead Ink Books, explains.
“Dead Ink was originally inspired by the idea that we couldn’t afford to print books so we made digital books that enabled us to print books somehow.”
A self-styled ‘small, ambitious and experimental literary publisher based in Liverpool’, Dead Ink first emerged in 2011 as a digital-only independent press run by Wes Brown in Leeds and funded by Arts Council England. In the same year, Connolly joined the team to assist with publicity and, before too long, was appointed editor.
By 2015, Connolly had taken the reins.
“I put in an application to the Arts Council England to run Dead Ink full time [originally for six months]. I got that bid, quit my job and since then I’ve been running Dead Ink.”
Since then, the business has gone from strength to strength. And now there is a physical space, a bookshop run by a team of four. Along with Connolly, Harriet Hirshman is the production coordinator, operations manager is Amelia Collin Wood, and Michael Lacey is the bookseller.
Dead Ink Books is a petite yet perfectly formed space. With its full glass window and lighting, its intimate layout is cosy and welcoming, encouraging bookworms to browse. As well as a treasure chest of books, there’s stationery, fresh coffee, and store merchandise.
Connolly says: “It’s something we planned. The shop was very small in its original conception and has grown into a more complex [design] as it has gone on, and more expensive. But coffee and drinks have always been a part of it because we didn’t just want to be about people coming in and buying books and leaving, we want people to stay even if it is just for 10 to 15 minutes.”
Dead Ink Books is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am. While it is closed on Monday and Tuesday, this is subject to change, and the publishing office behind the shop front is in operation every day.
In the lead-up to the grand opening of the bookshop, locals tried to get a sneak peak of the store by popping in to share their excitement. Hirshman told Northern Soul that the success of the launch night was really exciting.
“I think it’s something that this area really needs. I think people love books, I don’t think we have enough bookshops in Liverpool.”
She adds: “It shows that this area really wants it and hopefully we are doing something a little bit different as well.”
Dead Ink Books, 375 Smithdown Road, Liverpool, L15 3JJ