The changing face of bookselling in Melbourne


WHERE HAVE all Melbourne’s bookshops gone? Well, above is a Google Map of the city’s bookshops in 1998, 13 years ago, based on data from the National Book Council’s Bookshops of Victoria (3rd edition), which was the first book we published. There were 73 book outlets in the CBD listed in the publication. How does it compare with the bookselling scene now?

Well there are some notable absentees: Readers Feast, Angus & Robertson (both closed this year), Daimaru (closed 2002), McGills (closed 2009), while only Hill of Content remains of the Collins chain after its 2005 troubles (although the chain has since bounced back as a franchise-based organisation).

There are some familiar names still in business, such as Melbourne Sports Books, Collected Works, Hyland’s Bookshop, the Foreign Language Bookshop and, back after an absence from the CBD, the Little Bookroom. And then there’s Big W and Target, which weren’t the dominant book retailers back in 1998 that they are now.

Overall, however, there are now just 53 outlets selling books in the CBD – about 30% less than in 1998, as this map below indicates. Just as remarkable is the drop in the number of general bookshops, as opposed to specialist ones. There were around 25 generalist booksellers in the CBD back in 1998. Now? About 10. Not pretty reading if you’re a book publisher, author, or reader living in this UNESCO City of Literature.

Have I missed out anyone? Let me know if I have. Feel free to add your own analysis.

UPDATE. Thanks to Andrew Wrathall from Thorpe-Bowker, I’ve added another 8 shops to the 2011 map, bringing the total to 53. Hence, the percentage has moved from a 40% drop in the number of stores in the CBD between 1998 and 2011 to a 30% drop. Still a significant drop, but I was pleased to find some more outlets to add to the map.

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16 thoughts on “The changing face of bookselling in Melbourne

  1. Andrew Wrathall says:

    Add these?
    The Haunted Bookshop,‎ 15 McKillop Street, Melbourne (cult, MBS) http://www.haunted.com.au
    Flinders Books‎, 248 Flinders Street, Melbourne (second-hand)
    Kay Craddock Antiquarian Bookseller‎, 156 Collins Street, Melbourne (second-hand)
    City Basement Books, Basement, 28 Elizabeth St, Melbourne (second-hand)
    The Book Grocer, Shop 1, 413-415 Elizabeth St, Melbourne (remainders)
    The Book Grocer, 464 Collins Street, Melbourne (remainders)
    Embiggen Books, 197-203 Little Lonsdale Street (new release, science books) http://www.embiggenbooks.com
    The State Library has a Readings in it too.

  2. If one knew of the amount that CBD shoppers were buying from overseas internet vendors then the revenues from this postcode would certainly exceed 1998 in real terms – would they?
    We still have Hill of Content.

    • There has been about a doubling of the number of people living within the boundaries of the City of Melbourne since 1998. In 1996, there were only 40,000, now there are 86,000. There’s also over 300,000 workers in the City of Melbourne, 93% of which (279,000) travel from outside the City to work there. This has been increasing. From this we can say that the City of Melbourne’s daily population is probably somewhere around 365,000 people, compared to no more than 274,000 back in 1998, maybe as few as 250,000.

      So, more people, less bookshops = ??

  3. Andrew Wrathall says:

    What about foreign language books?
    Foreign Language Bookshop, 259 Collins Street, Melbourne. http://www.foreignlanguagebookshop.com.au
    China Books, 234 Swanston Street, Melbourne. http://www.chinabooks.com.au
    Melbourne Chinese Books & Art Co, 109 Lt Bourke St, Melbourne (haven’t seen this, but it’s on the net) http://www.chineseculture.com.au
    There’s a Chinese bookstore on level 1 of the renovated mall at 206 Bourke Street also. I don’t know what it’s called.

  4. Andrew Wrathall says:

    There’s a big Christian bookshop in the CBD:
    Koorong Books, 104 Franklin St, Melbourne
    I just remembered that this one existed a year ago. It might still be there.
    Fly By Night Books, Shop 1 / 413 Elizabeth St, Melbourne

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