Sunday, February 7, 2010

Indepence Gone!

I've been reading on a few other blogs lately (and yeah, I do follow quite a few based on reading and books), that the independent bookstores are being swallowed up and spat out by the bigger, more industrialised bookstores. I'm finding this terrible and a horrible waste of personal service. On the one hand, you have the wonderful little (and sometimes not-so-little) book stores that have been around since the beginning of time. They have regular customers, lovely people behind the counter who know the shop backwards in their sleep, books you wouldn't and couldn't find anywhere else around town and allow you to just meander around for as long as you want without asking if you need any assistance every ten minutes.
Then, you have the huge, business building-sized bookstore you can get lost in at a moment's notice due to it's size; and not because you've lost track of time. They have lounge chairs everywhere, a coffee shop, people asking if you're okay and a computer system most people can't figure out on their own (thus the reason for these places to be overstaffed at times).
It's not that I don't like the big, massive, book stores where you have to have map to find the section you want. But it's what these oversized stores do to the little business that really bothers me.
Just like in the the movie, 'You've Got Mail', the small, community-based bookstore that had been around for more than 30+ years was shut down by the arrival of a huge, all you'd ever want to buy but better bookstore. The irony of this film - and I've found this with many bookstores that are on the larger scale - is that they lack the personal touch the smaller,
independent bookstores have. In 'You've Got Mail', the owner of the smaller bookstore went into the bigger bookstore and found the staff knew nothing about the authors and the older editions of the books; but they knew all about the new publications. For some people, that's okay. But for collectors of books (like myself), that's not enough.
The independent bookstores are not becoming a thing of the past here in Australia. Seeing how we are finding it harder to make ends meet and it's not always best to purchase books brand new, us Australians often head off to the second-hand bookstores to find ourselves a bargain. Or better still, we wait until the bi-annual Life Line Bookfest in January and June where we can find books at the best prices ever! Last year, I bought up big there and even had enough money to buy some books for my niece who really loves horses.

There are some great second-hand bookstores around the Brisbane area where their shelves are lined with books. 'Archive's Books' on Charlotte Street in the City is one. It's been around for years and people have gone there for years; I do recommend a visit there if you do come to this lovely city. Another I frequent is 'Cumquat Books' at Annerley; on the corner of Juliette Street and Emporer Street. It looks boring on the outside with its grey exterior; however once through that glass door, you'll never want to leave! And the best thing is: it's wheelchair friendly! Then, there's 'Charring Cross Books' at Chardon's Corner. It used to be in a house on Ipswich Road. But now, it's moved a few doors down next to the travel agent (ironically enough, not far from where it originally started off when I was in high school). But it's still there and just as popular as ever.

So, has the independent bookstore you frequent been squeezed out of existence? Or is it still going strong? And how do you shop for books? Online or at a discount bookstore? I do most of my shopping at second hand bookstores and charity shops as well as a place called QBD where their motto is: "Never pay full price!" That's a motto I do live by!


  1. I'm ashamed to say I buy almost all my books online, and the ones I don't buy online all come from retail stores like Target or Big W. I would love to buy books from independent stores or second hand shops but there are none in my area! Plus, when I do travel an hour plus to buy books, I'd much rather get brand new ones at cheaper prices than buy books at independent stores.

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  3. When I buy books, I usually buy them second hand at used bookstores, thrift stores, flea markets, etc. If I were to have no access to such places and/or they run out of books, then I'd likely turn to places that sold new books in person. I'm not into online buying myself, but if that was my only option for books, it'd be a last resort. Don't ask me why, but I prefer buying "in person" than online even if the book (or other item) did turn out to be cheaper online than at an actual store. Maybe it has to do with online shopping requiring a credit card (I usually pay cash) or whatever "waiting period" is associated with buying stuff long-distance. Maybe it's the idea that business given to online stores means less business to their non-online counterparts. If I were find a book in town but bought a copy of it online, that means the copy of the "in person" version would remain stuck on the shelf until someone buys it or until it becomes destroyed (which happens in major chain stores, or so I've heard) whichever comes first. I live near at least one used bookstore. There are more books there than there is shelf space. I've bought two books from that store so far. (And yes, I registered them with Bookcrossing.) Most of the books on the reading list on MY blog are used or at least presumably used. I think to whatever extent my finances and living situation will allow, I'll be buying more used books for years to come, but as my own living space is limited, I'll only be able to possess so many at a time.

  4. I am from Australia too, but from Sydney and I am totally with you. There are some really lovely independent bookstores near me, Better Read than Dead on King St Newtown comes to mind first.

    I have to admit that financially, I have to buy my books second hand, but I love looking through little independent stores. I love that the staff know what you are talking about and have a genuine interst.

    In places like Dymocks etc (Which i dont shop at), the staff I feel have no special interest in books, can't make recommendations and don't really care about you as a customer.

    I think my favourite second hand bookstore is Elibabeths Books on King St in Newtown. I love the selection of books is wide enough to be new books and second hand books, and the staff are really on the ball and genuinly love books and reading!

  5. Becky,

    We have a Dymocks here in Brissie where the staff are all devoted readers; and they really get funny about what books people have read and they haven't. There was one guy in the children's section I almost went on a date with because we both hated Harry Potter books and we could talk about reading and writers all day.

    However there are other bookstores around where the staff are only there to make money and aren't interested enough to make the effort to know about authors and their works; or other work you may be interested in along the same lines. But reading is a wonderful and liberating thing to do.