Bookstores dropping like Melissa Leo F-bombs

March 1, 2011 in Misc, On Writing, Social/Political Commentary by pacejmiller

There’s nothing quite like browsing a good bookstore.  I can spend hours wandering up and down the isles, checking out the commercial bestsellers, the award winners and books with covers that simply appeal to me.  I love it.

When it comes to buying books, however, that’s another story.

Books in Australian stores are, for the most part, notoriously expensive.  There are plenty of reasons why that is the case (amongst them the GST, the population size, publishing houses, etc), but what matters is that Australians aren’t buying books from book stores.  Why would they, when they can get the same books for sometimes half, or even a third of the price online?  And now, with free worldwide shipping offered by some companies such as the Book Depository (and I believe Amazon has followed), Australian booksellers simply can’t compete.

I too have been guilty of purchasing cheaper books — either online or I stock up when I am overseas.  I browse Australian book stores to see what’s on offer, and then I take my business elsewhere.  As someone who hopes to one day crack the Australian book industry, I’m not exactly doing my part to support it.  But on the other side of the coin, why pay more when you can pay less?

As many commentators have said before me, there are no easy answers.  But the reality is that Australian booksellers are dropping (or will be dropping) like Melissa Leo f-bombs during Oscar acceptance speeches.

RedGroup Retail, the conglomerate that owns both the Borders and Angus & Robertson chains in Australia (two of the ‘Big Three’ — the other being Dymocks (there’s also a big Kinokuniya in Sydney)), has been in administration since February, and the latest reports claim that plenty of underachieving stores (out of the 26 Borders and 167 A&R stores) will be closed down in the coming weeks.  Don’t think they have much choice, considering they owe more than $160 million to both secured and unsecured creditors.  Unfortunately, that also means lots of staff will be out of jobs.

With more and more e-books flooding the market, are commercial bookselleser no longer necessary anyway?  Will Aussies head back to the stores if the prices are more competitive?  And how can they possibly make book prices cheaper?  The Government and booksellers around the world need to take a good hard look at the way the industry is currently structured and get their thinking caps on.

In the meantime, I’ll hold off buying more books online and wait for local sales.  Such is the life of a poor student.