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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Supporting The Shop Around The Corner...

Storytime at the delightful 'Shop Around the Corner' featured in You've Got Mail (1998)
Image via

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...


  1. I had no idea it was World Book Day (how terrible of me). I seem to shop for books everywhere (online, physical bookstores and secondhand op shops) - although I never cared at all for the Border's model. The service was always terrible there.

    It's always far more desirable to support diversity and encourage local business ... I wonder what the next bookstore 'move' will be?

  2. As an ex-bookseller, the A&R news made me head out to my last workplace (a great little independent) and chat about books and sales with some old collegues. Yay for World Book Day. Long may print last, I say.

    I worked for Borders for 30 minutes when I first arrived in Melbourne. I was told at the interview that I was "seriously overqualified" (10 years of experience in both chains - Dymocks, the now defunct Collins - and independents) , but I needed the cash...and yes, I lasted 30 minutes. Think it's a record...

    The Readings vs Borders battle, I remember well! Funny now that Readings are a chain bookseller themselves...

    Lovely little post, thank you.

  3. Lucy, I had to laugh about your '30 minutes' at Borders.I'm sure it was their loss! I take your point about Readings not being just a single shop (there are 5 in Melbourne now but they're still all owned by the one independent person).

    Sorry to hear that all is not well in your world at the moment - I hope things will settle down again soon. Thinking of you...

  4. My sister works at Readings but said they're not allowed to gloat :) I think they're too gracious to do that anyway. I always got Borders vouchers from my aunt for Christmas and living in the sticks there aren't many little cute bookshops so I tend to shop there, but I do rue the megasizing of what were once decent shops - I'm actually referring to Lincraft, which now has a zillion craft products but not really a great range of fabric, despite the fact that they started as a fabric retailer.

  5. You're right Leeyong. I'm in the outer suburbs too so access to quality bookstores is not always easy. I totally agree with you about stores moving away from their original reason for being too. When I go into a butcher I expect to find meat, when I go into a bakery I expect to find bread and when I go into a fabric store I expect to find FABRIC!