Bookshops have been in the spotlight recently following the announcement that RedGroup, owners of Angus & Robertson and Borders in Australia, were going into voluntary administration. The Australian Book Industry is one of the most vibrant in the English-speaking world. More people buy books per capita in Australia than anywhere else. Australia also has a very strong independent bookselling market, 20% compared to 8% is the US and 3% in the UK.
The reason independent bookshops have fared better in Australia than overseas is that we compete on service and we get involved with our local community. Books are social glue and bookshops are community hubs. A bookshop is where people gather to talk about ideas, stories, food, people and events. Bookshops are businesses that give back to their communities, support local schools, promote literacy and get involved with charities. We also allow readers to connect and engage with authors through talks at local libraries and local schools and we host and help local reading groups. A local independent bookshop is the point of contact for readers and the books they want to read. Going online is an easy way of finding what you are looking for; going into a bookshop is a fantastic and easy way of finding something you are not looking for.
There are still things only a bricks and mortar store can do. A local independent bookshop knows their books and they know their customers. We do not simply unpack books, place them on display and walk back to our registers to mindlessly scan items and place them in a bag. We read books and talk about books. We know our customers’ names and the names of their children. We recommend books and also un-recommend books when a book and a reader are not a good fit. We stock books according to what we know about our customers. We are proficient at researching books and being able to source them from around the world.
The North Shore of Sydney is a region full of voracious readers and they have some wonderful independent bookshops to support them. As well as Pages & Pages in Mosman there is Constant Reader in Crows Nest, The Blues Point Bookshop, Cammeray Bookshop, The Cookery Book in Northbridge, Moir’s Bookshop in Lane Cove, Lindfield Bookshop and Book Review in St Ives. All these independent bookshops do wonderful things in their local communities. They are not just vital to the retail landscape but the community as a whole.
A book is more than just the price you pay for it. A book is something you will open again and again. A book is something you want to share with family and friends. A book is something you care about and remember for the rest of your life. Your local independent bookseller is passionate about all these things and is passionate about finding books for you but they need your ongoing support.
Next time you are out drop in on your local independent bookshop. See what they are doing and ask for recommendation. I bet they find you something you might not have otherwise found on your own.