Saturday 11 August was National Bookshop Day here down under but I decided to delay writing about it until this week’s Monday Musings as it seems a worthy subject. However, Lisa of ANZLitlovers and Louise of A Strong Belief in Wicker did their posts in a more timely way.
National Bookshop Day is a new concept here. In fact this was its second year, having been inaugurated last year by the Australian Booksellers Association. Its logo is “celebrating bookshops in the community” and its aims are, I think, both celebratory and promotional, regarding bookshops, literature and, more generally, culture. I guess it doesn’t take much thought to work out why they feel the need to have such a day, what with the internet ‘n all?
I like this comment from Bite the Book, the blog of Pages and Pages* bookshop in Mosman, Sydney:
The internet makes it easier for everyone to find what they are looking for but what a boring place the world would be and how uninteresting our lives would be if we only ever found what we were looking for. As much as I enjoy reading the next book from one of my favourite authors there is nothing quite like that feeling of reading a book you found from left field through a recommendation or the serendipity of finding it on a shelf.
I like this because it recognises that there’s no turning back the clock. Technologies change. The three-volume book gave way to the single volume, paperbacks brought book-buying to a new level, and now e-books are on the rise. The point is they are all books and one thing remains the same: People continue to read. A day that celebrates this while also promoting one of the places that we readers love the most can only be a good thing. Browsing an online store, while possible and getting smarter, is nothing like browsing a bookshop surrounded by other booklovers and by books of all shapes, sizes, colours and contents.
I’m embarrassed to say that, unlike Lisa and Louise, I did not get to a bookshop on THE day, but I do go to bookshops regularly. Bookshops have had a tough time in the national capital over that last few years with significant chain stores disappearing view: Collins, Angus and Robertson and Borders. Just two chains survive, Dymocks and QBD. It’s good to see them survive. Chain bookshops** have their place after all, but they are not my bookshops of choice. My favourites tend to be independent stores, particularly:
- Paperchain – has the best remainder table I know, as well as other great books of course, and many author events
- Electric Shadows – has a particular focus on film, media and the performing arts as well as a good selection of Aussie lit, and also has author events
- Smiths Alternative – has books you don’t always find elsewhere including a good selection of translated fiction, and in line with its alternative, socially-conscious vibe, holds a variety of events in fiction, poetry and music
- National Library of Australia’s Bookshop – is the one I frequent the most. It’s in a beautiful building belonging to our premier literary institution, specialises in Aussie literature, and offers a generous discount to Friends of the Library. And there’s a gorgeous cafe across the foyer. What’s not to like?
Just for the record, I have recently bought books from a bookshop (the National Library one): Luke Davies‘ Interferon psalms (book of poetry, for me), Robert Newton’s When we were two (YA novel, for my nephew), and one I won’t name because it is a gift that hasn’t been bestowed yet.
Did you, if you’re Australian, attend a bookshop on National Bookshop Day? I’d love to hear about it. And, if you’re not Australian, is there something similar where you are? Are bookshops in your area thriving?
* On National Bookshop Day, Pages and Pages donated $1 for each book sold to the Indigenous Literary Foundation. Many bookshops held events, offered discounts and prizes. Let’s hope, for all their hard work, they attracted some new customers to their fold.
** My favourite chain in Australia has to be Kinokuniya. Its depth of fiction, from many nations, is simply hard to beat – but we don’t have a store in my city.