ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Monday, 21 February 2011

Little people rock! Indie Bookstores Galore.

Avid Reader, Indie Bookstore, West End, Brisbane.

Well you'd have to be living under a rock or in a cave not to have heard that a couple of the Big Bookstore chains are filing for bankruptcy. I've read a lot about it on my American friends' blogs. I'm sure Borders, Angus & Robertson et al do great stuff for authors and such in America but not in Oz where they're just selling points. The stores are fun to browse (especially Borders) but I don't usually buy from them, being rather drawn to the little guys...indie bookstores. In Oz, indie bookstores are rockin' and always have done, as we're a nation that just loves the little guy, the underdog. It's one of our most endearing quirks I think.

Did you know that in Oz, indie bookstores account for 20% of total book sales, whilst in America the indies only have 8% of market share and in the UK a pathetic 3%? (I got this hot off the press in our newspapers today!) I can well believe it as most every little town here has a bookstore or two, and you can't walk a city block without tripping over a couple. There's a quirky, alternative suburb next to the city of Brisbane - West End - I've lost count of how many indie bookstores there are over that way! I can walk across the river and browse for hours at cute little bookshops like Bent Books (above).

Why are indie stores so popular here? Probably because of the slower pace of life - we like to stop and smell the roses as they say. So that transcends into loving finding an indie bookstore or two or three where we can go and chat to an owner/sales assistant who's having trouble getting their nose out of a book behind the counter. Indie stores hook you in here because they are manned/womanned by book lovers for book lovers.

Fiona Stager who is the co-founder of Avid Reader, a drool-worthy bookstore in West End, verifies my previous comment. She says: 'It's often the service, the experience, the interaction with passionate readers and knowledgeable staff, the events program, book clubs - these are what will save independent booksellers.' (Currently Avid is hosting an art exhibition which has raised $3,000 so far for Q'ld flood victims.) 

Bill Concannon, chief executive of Mary Ryan Bookstores (where you can sup at a wonderful cafe whilst you read) says: 'We're like the village well of old where people would meet up as part of their routine.' I love that image and feel it's close to the truth. Bill said '...independents could run profitable businesses if they were prudent, gave exceptional service and interacted with customers.' He goes on to say: 'It's what the e-book will never be able to offer.' (Not that I'm not a supporter of the e-book!)

The Fair Imports Alliance slapped part of the blame for the book giants going into administration on online sales...in Oz forty to sixty percent are made to overseas companies.

I'm not smug about indie bookstores in Oz. I know times are tough for businesses as a whole, but I have high hopes for the continuance of the indie bookstore.


 Jessica Rudd, author, daughter of ex-PM Kevin Rudd (now Foreign Minister) and his wife, Theresa Rein, at an indie bookshop on the release of Jessica's first book.





28 comments:

  1. Clapping! Yay for Indie bookstores! We have one in our little (and I mean V small) town who keeps going by the skin of his teeth but he knows EVERY book :-)

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  2. Independents have gone under as fast as the chain here, but if the survivors can just hold out, they'll outlast the chains.

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  3. Yes, some of out indie bookstores are doing well too. The bigger chains are having to compete with eBooks whilst the little shops don't offer that facility. Perhaps that's also a reason.

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  4. I'll hang out in any bookstore, as long as they have a cafe to work in. We have a used one in town but no place to work. And even, no place to sit and read, either.

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  5. I wish there were some indie stores where I live. It's either Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, or the grocery store. Sigh....maybe I'll move to Aussie Land...

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  6. Our last indie bookstore closed about 10 years ago - I miss it. Our 2 chain bookstores are great - but it's not quite the same.

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  7. Hurray for Indie Bookstores!!! My local one is Merritt Bookstore in Millbrook, NY. It's so wonderful - there's just nothing like the cozy, familiar feel of a great indie. But I know the owner well, and it's a struggle to stay in business. The competition from the chains, and especially the online bookstores is so fierce. When you have overhead you can't compete with the lower prices available online, and when you can't offer lower prices, people are tempted to shop elsewhere. He works REALLY hard to stay afloat. I hope people will continue to shop at Indies. It would be such a shame if you could no longer wander into a cute little village bookstore :(

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  8. Yep, my aunty was saying about Borders's trouble - maybe it's karma, for all the bitchy things those guys did to indie book stores in the beginning!

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  9. This was so interesting. I had no idea that the local bookstores were so prevalent in Australia, and doing well too! That is good news indeed. Long may it last.

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  10. I love the whole atmosphere of the indie stores (I'm allowed to say that now that I no longer work at Angus and Robertson -- hehehe)

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  11. I love indie bookstores! We don't have many where I am (or I just haven't found them) but I really enjoy the atmosphere and the devotion of the people who run them. Go Australia for keeping indies alive! :)

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  12. I have a couple of friends who own indie bookstores. Luckily both of them are doing well. You just can't beat the personal service you receive when you are dealing with the owner.

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  13. I adore indie bookstores but there aren't enough of them around this country (USA). Hopefully this Borders news will lead to a revival on indie bookstores.

    Jai

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  14. In Cyprus, we only have Indie stores. Until recently only one in my area of the island, housed English books.

    I think if Borders came it would be pounced on for a short while, then we would drift back to our little guys.

    Great to 'meet' you, Denise. :)

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  15. I do believe that the indie bookstores will have a come back for just the same reasons you listed from the book store owner. Once the big chains are gone, all the little guy needs to do is add reading chairs and coffee.
    Nancy
    N. R. Williams, fantasy author

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  16. I'm glad you enjoyed reading about indie stores in Oz. I agree, coffee and books go together so well.

    Denise:)

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  17. I usually buy from the big bookstores. Not that I have anything against indie stores, because I do try to support them when I can. But the big stores allow some of us a chance to buy books in person instead of online. Until recently, I had to drive an hour to get to a bookstore and it was a Barnes and Noble.

    We now have a bookstore in town. It's a tiny bookstore and won't always have the books I want but I don't mind shopping there sometimes. It's an odd mix of old and new but it's nice to have.

    I like to go in stores full of books, chain or indie. Both are great.

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  18. Nice meeting you and reading your blog is going to tell me all about Australia I'm sure hehe.

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  19. I couldn't live without my local indie bookstore. Fun, quirky and friendly, I'd far rather buy from them than from Borders anyway.

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  20. That's very cool that your indie business is booming. I bet you're right about the laid back thing. I used to live in Portland Oregon and there are several there (one, the biggest indie in the country--Powells) and that is the way people are there. Much of the US though, likes things annoyingly predictable.

    I now live though, in Ann Arbor, where Border's has its HQ, and I confess to a fondness, even if I want to nurture our last indie here in town, too.

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  21. hi miss denise! mostly for me it depends on what i could need. for just only real slow browsing and doing some reading and having fun chatting i like that little bookstore thats close by us. they got a mix of use and new stuff. when were shopping for a jst new book or for presents of books we mostly go at a big store. we got lots of those all over the place.
    ...hugs from lenny

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  22. Cheers to indie bookstores! I too prefer buying on them, rather than the great chains. However, sometimes you can't find what you're seeking at your favorite store, and have to go for the big ones...

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  23. That's fantastic - glad to hear they're flourishing somewhere! Yippee for the small ones!

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  24. I used to work in a travel bookstore here in Chicago and I loved hand selling books to customers. We used to carry not only guide books, but cultural guides, and fiction from each country. It was so cool. We fought hard to stay in business, then the economy tanked and we closed our doors. I love, love indie bookstores and shop in them where ever I can find them. Hopefully the ones who can hold on will bounce back. It's always been my dream to own one.

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  25. Where I grew up in Indiana, there was a single Christian bookstore. Now I live in a town with a large university and a welcoming small business atmosphere... 6 small book stores, 3 on the same block. They tend to carry a different sort of stock than Borders/Barnes & Noble that jives better with me. That's why I like them. :)

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  26. I really hope to see the indie bookstore come screaming back with a vengeance now that the bigger box stores are in a whole heap of trouble. I really miss them.

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  27. I think we have one here in Casper- it is a very small store where you can get coffee and sit and read. Kind of neat to be in there and I even found quite a few good authors because I did. Great post

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