An indie bookshop is getting strangers to buy each other books on Twitter

Big Green Bookshop is giving readers the chance to #buyastrangerabook every Wednesday

Not everyone has access to books and other valuable reading materials that are so crucial to developing the literacy skills needed for lifting people out of poverty.

That’s why The Big Issue launched The Big Book Giveaway at the end of last year – to get books into the hands of those who desperately need them – and has championed reading with the #WhyBooksMatter campaign.

Now, Wood Green’s Big Green Bookshop is turning to Twitter to do the same by letting bookworms #buyastrangerbook every Wednesday.

The initiative allows Twitter followers to either ask for a book which is then paid for by another follower or the opposite, pledging money which is then used to fund a purchase for someone else.

And the idea has taken off – with owner Simon Key selling 56 books the first time he tried it earlier on this month before selling 75 the following week.

“The idea came about three weeks ago after I had a really bad day at work and I decided to tweet about it as I do at the end of the day sometimes and I put that I had a brilliant idea to reach £1,000 in takings the next day,” he said.

“So I tweeted asking if someone wanted a book and I am going to buy it for you. I thought it was really nice and a couple of people said you should do a buy a stranger a book day and see what happens. Someone else got in touch and offered to buy a book for someone else and escalated from there. It’s a nice thing to do and people who can’t afford to buy a book get the chance to have one bought for them and people who want to give a book can do that too – everyone’s a winner really.”


The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

After the initiative proved a hit, Simon is aiming to broaden the scope this week by inviting his followers to buy a book for a school too.

If that goes just as well then it will be far from the last word on #buyastrangerabook either.

“People are really happy with it and obviously it makes a lot of sense for us from a business perspective because people are buying books through us,” he said.

“I have to make sure that I have everything done by Tuesday now because that’s all I’m doing on Wednesday now – I reply to people on Twitter and make sure that books get posted out. Until people stop buying books for others on Twitter I’m going to keep doing it. I’m going to mix it up this week I think and keep things fresh by making it buy a school a book.”

Simon is also the figurehead of the Independent Bookshop Alliance – a group of around 130 independent booksellers who have joined forces to compete with Amazon and Waterstones.

The movement was launched with the help of Big Issue founder John Bird in the House of Lords in March and has already provoked positive discussions with book publishers in allowing smaller shops access to exclusive special editions like those enjoyed by the retail big-hitters.

And Simon believes that innovative measures like using Twitter for #buyastrangerabook are good way for the little guy to take on industry giants.

“It just shows how you can use Twitter properly. From a business point-of-view it’s just something that people need to think about – thinking outside the box,” he said. “We are grateful for Twitter and it is so simple to do – it’s just about keeping an eye on it and replying to people and they like it too as it doesn’t take a lot of effort or time.”