A community bookshop in Leith

Photo of bookshelves.

Having opened its doors almost one year ago, Edinburgh Community Bookshop has already raised thousands of pounds for local charities. Located on Great Junction Street, we popped in for a chat with its owner Alasdair Corbett.

Have you always wanted to run a bookshop?

The idea for running a bookshop came from a culmination of my diverse experiences. Over the years, I’ve engaged in various roles, from hospitality and retail to charity work. My involvement with different charitable activities, along with a lifelong appreciation for books, led me to consider opening a second-hand bookshop as a means to contribute to the community.

Why did you choose to open your bookshop in Leith?

Leith stood out as an ideal location due to its strong sense of community. The concept of the bookshop resonated well with the local dynamics, and my assessment proved accurate. Within the first 10 months, we managed to raise nearly £13k for local causes, demonstrating the potential of the venture.


Photo of coffee counter.

Why do you think independent bookshops are important?

Independent bookshops offer distinct selections that are often not found in larger chain stores. Our collection is enriched by the generosity of book donations from various genres, making us a unique hub for literary enthusiasts. Additionally, the bookshop serves as a platform for over 40 volunteers of different backgrounds and age groups to engage in meaningful activities.

What does a typical day look like for you running a community bookshop?

A typical day involves initial rounds of sorting through donated books. This process is quite rewarding, as it often leads to the discovery of hidden gems within the collection. Engaging with customers about their reading preferences and interacting with the canine visitors that frequent our dog-friendly establishment also constitute a significant part of my routine.

What is the most unusual book that has been donated?

We recently received a first edition of a book by Darwin, which is slated for auction next month. Such discoveries are quite exciting. Beyond books, we’ve encountered interesting items tucked within pages, including old family photos, handwritten letters, postcards, pressed leaves, newspaper clippings and even occasional poems.

Which is your favourite section of the bookshop to browse?

Personally, I gravitate towards the crime fiction section. We boast an extensive collection in this genre, which aligns with my reading preferences. Exploring works by authors like Ian Rankin and delving into the offerings of Peter May has been particularly enjoyable.

Photo of children's book area.

How has the bookshop helped local charities carry out their work?

The bookshop has provided support to a range of charities, such as Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, Upmo (an organisation assisting adults with Autism and learning disabilities), and Dr Bell’s Family Centre (a Leith-based organisation supporting families with young children). The funds raised have facilitated the continuation of their impactful work within the community, catering to diverse needs.

September’s charity of the month is Soul Food Edinburgh who provide hot, delicious and freshly prepared meals while also offering some respite and support to anyone dealing with the challenges of homelessness, poverty or loneliness.

Are you currently looking for volunteers?

Volunteers play a vital role in the functioning of our bookshop. While we have a dedicated team, new volunteers are always welcome to join. People’s circumstances change, and fresh perspectives are valuable. Those interested in volunteering can find more details, along with the application form, on our website.

Win a book bundle!

Are you looking for new books to read over autumn and winter? We’ve teamed up with Edinburgh Community Bookshop to give Harbour Homes tenants the chance to win a book bundle worth £30!

Simply share with us your favourite genres or authors by tweeting @harbourhomes_ using #bookgiveaway or by emailing comms@harbour.scot. You can also phone 0131 554 0403 if you prefer. Entries close on Friday 6 October 2023 and full details can be found here.