THIS Saturday, 20 August is National Bookshop Day across Australia.
Coordinated by the Australian Booksellers Association, National Bookshop Day has been created to promote community-based bookselling at a time when, frankly, Australian booksellers need all the positive PR they can get.
The day’s message is: in spite of the recent demise of Angus & Robertson and Borders, the strong Aussie dollar making some book imports cheaper, plus the ascendancy of ebooks, there are still plenty of good reasons to pay a visit to your local bookshop.
If you have a good local bookshop, you’ll know exactly what I mean, but in case you don’t, here are some reasons why Australians need to support their local booksellers, not just this Saturday, but all year round.
- Good bookshops don’t just provide shelf space for books; they are community hubs, holding author readings and book launches, hosting reading groups, and running events for kids (remember all those fantastic Harry Potter launches?).
- our local bookshop is still in many cases the only place where you can buy locally-published books. Most of these can’t be bought from overseas-based online stores so, if you don’t support local bookshops, most local publishers won’t have anywhere to sell their wares. That means fewer opportunities for local writers, less Australian voices being published and a return to the days when Australia’s literary tastes were dictated by editors in London and New York.
- Good bookshops offer a service which comes free with every book they sell. In a business world seemingly determined to retreat from service (checked in to a Qantas flight lately?), bookselling is a business that still relies on bringing readers and books together with a personal touch; making recommendations, sharing enthusiasm, offering guidance. In a world where maybe as many as a million new books are published each year, booksellers are essential, knowledgeable and friendly guides. In most cases too, where they haven’t got the book you want in their shop, they can find it for you within days.
- Good booksellers also act as curators of the books they sell. Rather than simply piling high the cheapest or fastest-selling books, they select the stock on their shelves judiciously, with their local readers in mind and drawing on their own instincts and experience not only about what will sell, but also what will surprise, enthral and entertain.
Australia per capita has more independently-owned bookshops than either the USA or UK—roughly 20% of the total bookselling market. As the Angus and Robertson/Borders collapse has shown, size is no protection if the business model and market conditions are working against you, but many of our local bookstores have proved remarkably resilient in the past two years. As our local bookshops increasingly embrace online selling, ebooks and social marketing, they are ensuring they remain key points of reference in our communities.
If you don’t value them now, just imagine for a moment the barren retail wasteland that awaits us if they go.
It would be hypocritical for me to say I buy all my books from local bookshops. I don’t. Some of the overseas-published books I buy can’t be easily found on Australian bookshelves and sometimes the exchange rate makes an overseas purchase too tantalisingly cheap. But, generally, where I can buy it locally without too much inconvenience, I prefer to for the reasons above.
So, Wilkins Farago commends National Book Day to you. By visiting your local bookseller on the day, you’re supporting local publishers like us (and especially if you buy our wonderful new Father’s Day title, Sam and His Dad!).