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Printed Matter Bookshop, 185 Queens Rd, Hastings

Printed Matter Bookshop, 185 Queens Rd, Hastings

Best Bookshops: The Printed Matter Bookshop, 185 Queens Rd, Hastings

More than just a place to buy interesting books, The Printed Matter Bookshop runs author events and book clubs – and you can get vinyl, too. Lee Humphries talks to Angela J. Phillip about the delights and difficulties of running an independent bookshop.

Printed Matter Bookshop

Printed Matter Bookshop

Hi, Lee, when did you decide you wanted to start a bookshop and how did it come about?

I can’t remember when I wanted to start an independent bookshop. Many years ago, I decided I wanted to live by the sea and Hastings looked good. It already had bookshops (which suggested a reading town), and I wanted to open a shop in a town that had a university. I chose the property when I saw Tim’s (now at Bookbusters) shop was on the market so I thought if he’s leaving, it’ll be good to be on Queens and it’s a stone’s throw from a free car park and Priory Meadow. The name came about because I remember sending packages abroad and having to write Printed Matter on them and it described what I would be selling.

It’s a great name! Can you say a little about what kind of bookshop The Printed Matter Bookshop is? Do you also sell online?

For me, being an independent bookshop means you’re not controlled on what you sell. I wanted to sell interesting books that you don’t see in other shops. The chain stores go with the “stack ’em high, sell ’em cheap” approach which I could not compete with anyway. I tend to stock books on current affairs, social sciences, culture and social history mostly but also graphic novels, nature writing, records & some children’s books. Yes, I have an online shop

David Quantick Book Launch

David Quantick Book Launch

I know that you run the PM Bookclub and other literary events – could you tell us a little about them?

Yes, we have a monthly radical book club here which new members can join and a Capital reading group about to start shortly. I look for authors who have books coming out soon and are willing to visit Hastings for the cost of their train fare. I mostly tend to have author talks on current affairs, social history, culture, but also some local writers who have written both fiction and non-fiction. I will sometimes use larger venues to not only get wider audiences but also to help those venues get some revenue and publicity.

Yes, you run impressive events – Salena Godden & friends, David Quantick, Guy Standing to mention just one or two. 

Printed Matter Bookshop

Printed Matter Bookshop

What are the difficulties in running  a bookshop like yours and what makes it worthwhile?

It’s difficult as online sellers are often cheaper and don’t have the high overheads a high street shop has. Until you’ve run a shop, you have no idea how much it costs and how everything, such as utilities, is dearer for businesses. As people shop online, it is difficult not only to meet all the assorted overheads but to actually pay yourself a wage! Forty years of low wage growth and the mad ideology of self-inflicted austerity, taking money out of the real economy in the hope that it grows, has had dire effects on our high street. We’ve lost so much and I see our high street shops, pubs etc, turning more and more into rental accommodation and that’s our future.

Printed Matter Bookshop

Printed Matter Bookshop

The positives have been my regulars, who come back time and again. I really appreciate their support and also those who want to see independent shops in their community, which Hastings has a lot of compared to other towns. Some folk have come off Amazon and send me or show me the link from Amazon and say I’m supporting independents from now on. This makes up for all the folk who come in to my shop to take photos of what they want to buy on Amazon.

Could you say a little about how you think reading habits have changed during the time you’ve been involved in the book trade? What do these changes mean for writers, publishers and booksellers?

I think some folk switched to kindle but I always thought that would be a fad. If your job means staring at a screen all day, would you want to then stare at a screen to read to relax? I can see the benefit of kindle for travelling abroad when you don’t want to carry 5 novels, but folk have come back to physical books as they also like the feel of a book. Probably the biggest change in reading habits for working folk is people finding the time to read unless you commute by train. Sales in physical books have increased and in some UK towns the bookshops are doing really well. 

David Quantick Book Launch

Printed Matter Bookshop

Are there any changes you might like to try? What would you like to achieve in the next five years?

I started selling vinyl, being a record collector and DJ myself, some folk asked could I start selling it so I did. That’s one change I made. Also, spreading events across the town to work with other local businesses to share the love. I’d like to pay myself the minimum wage, employ local people and expand to a bigger shop but TBH, I’ll be surprised if I am still here in five years time as some days I don’t sell any books at all, which is quite a challenge in a town of 100,000 residents and thousands of tourists throughout the year. Some tourists have sought me out when they have looked up independent bookshops so that’s nice to see.

People should come to PM Bookshop only if they like seeing independent bookshops in their community. If you want to see your local community thrive then consider spending your money locally to support those shops. You’ll find books you won’t see in other bookshops and get some great records too. You can also support the shop via

Here’s hoping that more and more tourists and regulars find their way to your shop, and as regards your vinyl and DJing, I notice you’ve got an event coming up – on Sunday September 22 from 2.30 – 7.00 pm. The Sunday Special – jumping with Mr Lee at twelvehundredpostcards 80 Queens Rd.

Thanks so much for taking the time to tell us a little of what you do, Lee. Hastings is lucky to have you.
Upcoming events

Wed 18 September  from 18.00, entry £2 at St Mary in the Castle hosted jointly by Momentum & Printed Matter Bookshop
Book Launch Stolen: how to save the world from financialisation by Grace Blakeley
Please see Stolen review by Lee Humphries in HOT

Tues 24 September 18.00 at Printed Matter Bookshop
Divest – short film and talk
Stop funding climate change

Mon 30 September 18.00 at Printed Matter Bookshop
Das Kapital reading group

Tues 1 October 18.00 at Printed Matter Bookshop
Organising Meeting for Spirit of Tressell festival

Mon 7 October 18.00 at Printed Matter Bookshop
PM reading club


Books – Printed Matter Bookshop, 185 Queen St, Hastings
Online store
Facebook Printed Matter Bookshop page

Selection of new additions and restocked vinyl LPs at The Printed Matter Bookshop – see video

Images supplied by Lee Humphries and Paul Way-Rider


Posted 13:40 Monday, Sep 16, 2019 In: Hastings Bookchat

Also in: Hastings Bookchat

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