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The bookshop bicyclist - Nerida Ross

The bookshop bicyclist - Nerida Ross

There’s only so much TV one can watch while at home, which is why books are in huge demand. Since all bookstores are closed, one local shop in Sydney’s Inner West is offering a unique style of help.

Free home delivery by bike. 

Independent bookseller Gleebooks saw the chance to build strong bridges with its customers and help keep them reading, by offering free home delivery. In fact, anyone living within about 30 minutes of its main outlet in Glebe had their deliveries arrive courtesy of one very well-read bicycle courier and bookstore worker, Nerida Ross.

With everyone holed up and looking for information, entertainment or places to escape … in their minds, at least -books are a perfect outlet.

Nerida says this touch of old-fashioned personalised service has been a major hit with book lovers across Sydney’s Inner West. “There’s such a delight having someone knock on your door and deliver a book in a brown paper bag from their bicycle,” she says. “It’s something we haven't had in a while, maybe. It’s quite a sweet thing.

“I made a delivery at a share house today and the person said, ‘I feel like Lily gets a book delivered every day from Gleebooks’. That was cute. It's such a novelty to get something delivered by hand. They love the convenience of it. They say, ‘Oh, what a wonderful service’. They're so stoked.”

Books help bind the community 

Nerida’s brother, James, who is events manager of Gleebooks at Glebe, says the idea came from wanting to help maintain a relationship with local customers after the bookstore was forced to close its doors in early April.

“That meant we wouldn't be able to have that connection with our regulars; those who support the shop throughout the year,” says James. Bikes became the preferred transportation choice, he explains, because they’re more environmentally friendly, easier to park and often faster than motorised methods in the inner city. 

“Helping like this feels really good because it means we get to maintain that interpersonal experience, which is part of why we became booksellers,” says James. “We like engaging with people about their books. And we’re getting really lovely responses from people. It's nice to have that appreciation and warmth as everybody reflects on how great it is you’re able to help out and share their love of books.”

Gleebooks’ bicycle courier force certainly isn’t short of work or management support. Shop manager Andrew Sims delivers books from his bike throughout the day as well as on his way home. One of Gleebooks owners, Roger Mackell, is a keen cyclist who incorporates deliveries into his exercise regime.

Getting in customers good books 

Nerida says she can carry about six or eight books in her 25-litre pannier and trips are undertaken within about a 30-minute radius of the shop. Many of her journeys, she says, are just down the road.

“People are really trying to go local,” she says. “A lot of the orders we get are from people around Glebe. I did a couple of deliveries today that were basically walking distance from the store. These are people who would usually spend their day walking into the store and browsing.

“There are so many other places where you can get books delivered. The beautiful thing about this is not so much that books are being delivered, but that locals are getting their books delivered personally by Gleebooks.”

Nerida had planned to leave for the UK later this year to pursue work as an events producer. But with international flights grounded, you sense she’s enjoying her two-wheeled adventures at the moment.

“You have these little interactions with people who are so delighted and surprised to receive their books,” says Nerida. “It's like giving them a present … I feel like Santa, rocking around giving gifts to people that they paid for.

“It's a delight to be able to see those people and help them have nice at-distance human experiences throughout the day. This is mutually supportive, where everyone's pulling together. I guess we're all helping each other.”

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