Tomorrow is World Book Day but many book-loving Australians may not feel that much like celebrating. Last week Angus & Robertson, one of Australia's oldest bookstore chains (first opened in 1884) went into receivership following a disastrous marriage with megabook empire Borders. While it would be easy to just blame growing internet sales and the rise of the ebook for the group's demise the truth, as always, is more complex. Angus & Robertson should never have joined forces with an already ailing Borders as explained here and here and while the demise of Borders may seem like a victory for the little guy, the people who'll suffer most are those who live in the suburbs and regional areas of Australia where most of the A&R stores are located.
I remember when Borders first breezed into town in 2003 with their superstores and price discounts. We all watched in amazement as they opened an enormous store right across the road from Melbourne's favourite indie bookstore, Readings. Things looked pretty grim for the little bookstore but it fought back and today the Readings stores are bigger and better than ever. So how did they do it? They did it by employing staff who live and breathe books, by supporting important community projects and by stocking the best damn selection of books in the city. They have no loyalty program and offer no discounts at the till but they are still my favourite place to shop.
Don't get me wrong I've certainly bought the odd book at Borders over the years (and A&R and Dymocks and lots of other places) and I've even bought a few books online but there is something so wonderful about shopping in an independent bookstore where you can 'feel the love' that it's a ritual I refuse to give up (even if it does costs me a few dollars more). Imagine a world where you can't just nip into a bookshop, soak up the ambience, browse the shelves, check out the new releases and find and fall in love with a new author/book. Makes me shiver just thinking about it! So go on - celebrate World Book Day by going out and supporting your local independent bookshop. I'm sure there's someone working there who's dying to recommend a great book...