Indie Bookshops

The Broadway Bookshop

By Iqbal Ahmed

Published in The Bookseller in 2007

I first visited the bookshop in Broadway Market in Hackney on a Saturday morning. I cycled up Old Street in Islington and then through quiet roads flanked by estates until I reached a bridge and found a street on the other side teeming with people. The Broadway Bookshop is located at the entrance to a farmers’ market. The other end of the street opens onto the London Fields parkland. It was the owner of Newham Bookshop, Vivian Archer, who cited this bookshop to me as an example of a good independent in East London. 

Jane Howe opened the Broadway Bookshop in November 2005. She had worked in various bookshops in London for fifteen years before deciding to open her own shop in Hackney, because there is a dearth of bookshops in East London. She knew it was hard work to run an independent bookshop but that did not weaken her resolve. She reckons it’s “an ideal way to spend the day”. Jane lives in West London and travels to Broadway Market on the Tube, giving her two hours every day to read the books she’d like to stock in her shop. She says: “Independent bookselling is like cooking

a feast using only fresh ingredients.” Jane selects her books very carefully, like a master chef who goes to the market at dawn to choose the best fresh produce.

The Broadway Bookshop, like its owner, looks very cheerful and inviting. The interior of the shop is most elegant. Jane mostly stocks fiction, biography, art, travel and children’s books in her shop, which takes as much money on a market day as it does during the rest of the week. The nearby Columbia Road Market also brings many people to the shop on Sundays. Jane is supported by an able assistant, Illona, in running the shop six days a week; it is closed on Mondays.

Jane has recently launched a website for her shop listing events and other information. The bookshop hosts a regular reading event called Anything But Hackneyed. Author Iain Sinclair, who lives in Hackney, often visits to lend his support. It is the loyalty of her customers that has made Jane successful as an independent bookseller. She would like to reward them by offering a loyalty card soon.