Books can make a perfect Christmas gift, especially when they’re perfectly matched to recipients. In this short guide we’ll use what we’ve learnt from over 40 years of distributing books across the globe to help you pin down the one title that special someone in your life never knew they needed. Just like Santa we’re also in the business of distribution, and we reckon there’s a thing or two we could teach him about logistics.
So without further ado, and in no particular order:
1. Look further than end of year lists and media recommendations
If you’re anything like us your digital timelines are probably full of “best of” lists, and you can’t turn anywhere in December without someone telling you to buy one thing over another. But if you want the book that’s just right we think you’d do well to look further afield. University presses (publishers who work with or for universities the world over) are a particularly good place to start – they tend to have specialist (but often supremely interesting) books on offer that might help fill the niche-shaped hole in your loved one’s Christmas list. Also, look to source titles by publisher. Looking for a book for the biggest Swiftie in your family? May we recommend the fantastic ACC Art Books? Want to help that younger member of the family understand where the Emo music they love so much originally comes from? Manchester University Press has you covered. Or for someone who just wants to be taken on a wild adventure this Christmas Rowman& Littlefield have just the thing. Exploring books by publisher type will help you hone in on that precise thing your giftee is into, not just a book that happens to be connected to the thing they love.
2. “Unavailable” doesn’t necessarily mean “unavailable”
Online retailers tend to carry price and availability advice that pertain mostly to their own business. Just because one site tells you a title is out of stock doesn’t mean it’s unavailable everywhere, so make sure you compare at least three or four places before you give up. Better still, it’s always a good idea to call your local independent bookseller(you’ll find a handy list here if you’re in the UK) and ask whether they can order directly from a distributor like us. If that still draws a blank, go directly to the publisher themselves. On more than one occasion we’ve heard of customers enquiring, and finding that publishers sometimes have copies knocking about their own offices they’re only too happy to sell on.
3. Make sure you’ll actually get it in time
Christmas comes but once a year, and you don’t want to be caught out by ordering something that just isn’t going to arrive in time. Even if everywhere you look there are dates that fill you with disappointment don’t take “no” for an answer, at least not until you’ve tried everywhere else. If your local bookshop or online retailer can’t get your book to you in time find out who distributes the title and ask if there’s any way they can expedite it to you. If it falls outside of a distributor’s advertised order dates there’s no guarantee, but if you’re willing to pay for fast shipping there’s always a chance.
So you’ve found precisely the right earth-shattering, life-changing title your recipient will go wild for, but it’s not published until March 2024. No bother – most bookshops and online retailers will allow you to place a preorder, and your book will ship to your recipient on the day of publication. If not, enquire directly with the publisher or distributor – they’ll often be able to help you place an order for forthcoming titles straight from the source. Just remember to write “good things come to those who wait” in your giftee’s Christmas card.
5. Source locally and independently if you can
Perhaps there’s a moral imperative to shop locally and independently, but there are other huge benefits to buying your books from that bookseller just around the corner. For a start, you’re helping power your own local economy and contributing to the continuance of a tradition of bookselling that goes back centuries. But more than that, indie booksellers often know what’s available on the market better than anyone. It’s one thing to click a button and receive a book the next day, but it’s quite another to go into a shop looking for one book only to realise that there’s a whole host of competing, and often superior, titles on offer. If you’re not sure where your nearest local bookseller is use this handy guide: Bookshop Search
We hope you’ve found some of that advice useful; we wouldn’t have known much of it ourselves if we didn’t work at the heart of the industry. However you source your titles this year we really hope you have a very Merry Christmas if you celebrate it, and that there are least some books under your tree on December 25th.