A Map Of London Bookswaps

By M@ Last edited 18 months ago

Last Updated 19 December 2022

A Map Of London Bookswaps

We've compiled a map of bookswaps in London. The are places where you can take a book for free, leave one for somebody else to enjoy or, best of all, do both.

Bookswaps come in many shapes and sizes. Some occupy wardrobe-sized cabinets. Others are miniature units or simply a spare shelf in a rail station. Lewisham even has a bookswap in a disused phone box.

A phone box full of books in Lewisham.
The Lewisham phone box bookswap. Find it where Lewisham Way crosses over the rail line.

Help us map the capital's bookswaps

Our map above is still under construction. We've added everywhere we know about, but there are no doubt many others across the capital.

If you know about a bookswap we've missed, please let us know in the comments or by emailing [email protected]. We'd also welcome images of bookswaps, to help update the map.

Limehouse Basin bookswap
A lanky bookswap in Limehouse Basin.

Who's behind the bookswaps?

These community assets are not intended to replace libraries, but to complement them. There's something rather charming about chancing across a random book on the street or at your local station. Often, they are inscribed or impregnated with messages from a former owner.

Acton Town bookswap
Acton Town's bookswap has the most unusual views... and a small if diverse book selection.

Various projects, such as Books for London, have boosted the number of bookshares.  Meanwhile, the worldwide BookCrossing initiative has its own methods for getting tomes out into the wild. Many bookswaps, though, are simply set up by local communities.

Can they be considered as 'little libraries'? A few bookswaps use that term, but it can be contentious. Some would argue that a library is a place with employed librarians, who are trained to help you find the book you're after. A bookswap is merely a cabinet of discarded books with little or no curation.

The Gibbon's Rent 'Little Library', hiding in a secret garden near London Bridge.

In this age of council cutbacks, we do have sympathy with that view. However, the term 'library' has long been cast more widely than the council-ran book service. We can speak of photo libraries and genetic libraries, toy libraries and a 'library of things'. How many times have Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum been murdered in a private mansion library?

Why not talk with fondness of the 'little library on the corner'?