Here’s a post for ex-pats and fans of Irish music and literature all over the world. Where do you order Irish books & music when you’re outside the country?
I’ve been living outside Ireland cumulatively for 21 of the last 25 years, not all of them in the same country, so I’ve amassed a bit of experience in keeping up with the news and reviews from home in that time. Pre-internet, I relied on phone calls with the mammy for all the news that was fit to repeat (and some that wasn’t…). When the internet came along, I could get a certain amount of news online, but most often I kept up through week-old copies of the Irish Times in a local bookshop. (When I lived in a large enough city to have a book store that carried European dailies.) Now of course, I get the news as it happens on Twitter, and watch the major papers catch up the next day online.
For books and music, I used to stock up whenever I’d visit, returning with half my weight in paperbacks and CDs. The CDs would be unwrapped and digested within a week, the books over months (except for the few that were pure impulse purchases, and still sat there looking sorry for themselves when I was packing the case for the next trip home).
Within the last five or six years, the improvements in Irish newspaper’s online editions and the arrival of the RTE Player meant that I was keeping up with the news and hearing of new bands and books at the same time as everyone else, so I often didn’t want to wait until the next trip home to search things out in Dublin’s multiple bookshops. (And, I began to find fewer and fewer of my old bookshop haunts still there to explore, but that’s another story.) Amazon’s UK operation was alright for buying CDs, as the shipping costs were lower because they didn’t weigh much, but outside the bestsellers their discounts weren’t great and the shipping costs added up quickly (and still do).
I began special ordering Irish books through my local bookstore here in the US, which could take quite some time. After waiting over 6 months for the boxed Seamus Heaney one year, I began to look online for a quicker solution. (iTunes effectively removed most barriers to keeping up with Irish music several years ago, it’s hard to better the speed and affordability of the service.)
The Book Depository was a revelation for a while. They offer free shipping anywhere in the world, and before the exchange rate went to hell, I took advantage of that a lot. However, they now appear to frequently be out of stock of everything but the bestsellers, so I don’t find them very useful anymore.
Today, I tend to use kennys.ie, the online arm of the storied Galway bookshop. They offer free shipping worldwide and seem to have warehouses in Ireland, the UK and the US, because books arrive very quickly. I still stock up on titles when I’m home, but the cases aren’t so heavy anymore as I can more easily afford to scratch that itch when a review excites my interest thanks to Kennys’ pricing and service — plus, in the current economic malaise, Irish retailers and writers need all the support they can get! Kennys also offer used books online, which can help stretch the budget.
Please drop us a line in the comments if you know of any other good websites that help you keep up with Ireland while you’re overseas.