Saturday, August 11, 2007

Storm in a bookstore?

When I was blog hopping this morning, I came across this post at Smart Bitches about a storm that's erupted here in publishing/book distribution circles about having to pay for the right to have books sold at Angus & Robertson, which is one of the main bookstore chains here.

The post links back to the original item on the Sydney Morning Herald website, and reading through the comments was very interesting. I am not qualified to comment in any other way other than the fact that I am a reader. I therefore have no idea whether it is standard industry practice for smaller publishers and distributors to have to pay for the privilege of having their books sold in the bigger bookstores, or whether by boycotting A & R completely readers will possibly not only be harming the company, but also franchisees who sell under the A & R banner but buy stock independently etc. but the letter that was written by A & R does seem to be very overbearing to say the least!

What reading these articles did make me think about is my book buying habits! I can't remember the last time I bought a book from A & R. It must be a couple of years at least. The reason for that is that they never have very good stock. If you want to read anything that is isn't in the top 50, or has been in the top 50 relatively recently, then you can really forget about it! To be fair, I have to say the same of both Collins bookstores and Dymocks, which are the other two main Australian owned (or should I say started out as Australian owned chains). So, if I am not buying from those stores, where do I buy from? Another comment that came up regularly was about supporting Aussie authors, and this is something that I know I must be a bit better at, but I am trying..I really am!

To be honest, when I am looking to buy a book, I will generally end up going to Borders, or I order online, mainly from Book Depository or Boomerang Books. For romance, it will once again be either of those two, or more likely, romance specialists like Rendezvous or Ever After.

In the comments to the SMH article, there were lots of references to really good independent bookstores in Sydney, but I can only think of one here in Melbourne and that is Readings. The problem with Readings is that I don't go to the places where their stores are very regularly. I used to visit Readings in Carlton quite regularly, but that was when I lived only 15 minutes away from there, so it was nothing to wander down to Carlton on a Sunday morning for brunch, and book browsing. The bonus was that there is a Borders and another bookshop that sells books that the bookstores have sent back (can't think what that is called) across the road as well as good coffee and atmosphere!

The truth is that browsing in bookstores doesn't interest me all that much anymore! I know ... sacrilege! If I am going to a bookstore it is usually for something specific. One of the reasons for this is that if you go to the bookstore too regularly you just see the same things over and over again! Another reason for this is that for the most part I know that I will be able to get most books that I want from the library, and the other reason is that I get all my book recommendations from groups and blogs, and I am probably less likely to actually just pick up a book for no reason. Every now and again something catches my eye, but it doesn't happen all that often! I just can't afford to buy 10 books and only really enjoy one of them! I don't have money to spare, especially given that the interest rates just keep going up and up, and so do other expenses.

So, a question for any Melbourne based bloggers. Are there any bookstores that you all would recommend that are good for a visit?

For everyone else, have your book buying habits changed? Do you buy from independent booksellers, or only at the big chains?

And check out this link for a joke letter of demands from a book distributor!


  1. I love visiting the Albert Park bookstore on Bridport Street. They rarely have anything discounted, but they have a loyalty card program. I hang out for their yearly sale, as they often have hard to find titles in stock. The staff are helpful, knowledgeable and friendly. It's a beautiful store (the Albert Park deli nearby is great for coffee/food). Oh, and the city Dymocks store (in Collins St) is huge, worth a visit. I used to like Reader's Feast too, but haven't been there in years.
    Apart from that, I feel much the same as you: buy most new books from Book Depository or Borders, and rarely visit bookstores to browse any more.

  2. My book buying habits have definately changed. I used to browse through bookstores but now, prefer to buy books online through ebay, amazon or book depository. Lately, I've gotten most of my books through paperback swap. I can't even remember the last time I bought a book (for myself) at a bookstore.

  3. Nothing to add to the Melbourne recs, but you know what's annoying? Borders not having a book on its US release day. In fact, Borders not knowing that JR Ward's latest book is coming out. They're a US subsidiary and it frustrates the hell out of me. (But it's OK, because I can get the book elsewhere.) Also frustrating are bookstore employees working at the children's section who can't tell me where Postman Pat is shelved. I mean, really.

  4. I knew that there was something else that I was going to write about!

    I don't get why you would work in a bookstore, or a library for that matter, if you actually don't like books! What's that about?

  5. I don't buy many books at a book shop anymore either - it is all so much easier online. You can find them for much better prices online if you search around, and I find it easier to "browse" for books online as well. If you see something that catches your eye, you can head off onto another web page for reviews of that book.
    Although, there is nothing better than the smell of all those books when you go into a bookshop.

    Totally off topic here, but have any Melbournians been to the old bookshop in Collins Street in the city - Kay Craddock Antiquarian Books. The smell of that place is wonderful! As is the number of books!

  6. I haven't made it to Reader's Feast yet, but I have been past it, and it just looked messy. Not enticing to go inside at all!

    I've never been to Antiquarian Books. Next time I'm in the city I might just go and have a look!

  7. Marg,
    I've just discovered that Reader's Feast is a subsidiary of A&R. Won't be going there now!
    I haven't been to the antiquarian bookstore either.
    Oh, and the other place I often buy my books are 2nd hand bookstores: the one in Hampton St, Hampton (opposite the Brown Cow cafe) is quite good, and reasonably priced, and of course, good old op shops!

  8. I do most of my book shopping online. A lot of books that interest me simply don't make it into the brick-and-mortar bookstores or are available only used. When I do buy something from a brick-and-mortar bookstore, it's usually something that I've been specifically looking for, though once in a while I'll see something that strikes my fancy and buy it on impulse.



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