Posted by


Today I found myself floating around a bit and ended up tagging along with my mum to her secondhand bookshop where she wanted to exchange some books. As we were browsing whilst the books were being valued I noticed a sign which said that due to the current climate in bookselling, she was no longer offering held credit. This piqued my interest and so I wandered over to talk to her about what she and her business were experiencing in the wake of ebooks.

She told me that times were hard, that she thought they’d be able to ride it through but that she’d had 4000 books in and no books out – I didn’t ask her specifically what timeframe that was but she clarified that she’d really been feeling it in the last 12 months. On probing, she felt that it was the ereader that was the main factor. She said that people were coming in and telling her they were getting rid of all their books and would never buy a paperback book again. I thought that was interesting and wondered aloud to her as to whether that would be a long term, permanent thing, noting that I had heard that (particularly in Australia) a lot of people were getting a Kindle and then downloading the free ebooks online and not much else. I have read elsewhere that classics are being downloaded the most because they are free and the Kindle offers a nice way to get that “should have read” reading done but that other parts of the book industry were not feeling it as much. She also told me that some people were coming back and citing that they missed reading physical books. She told me that the worst problem was that she felt people were cleaning out all their books at home, racking up like a $200 credit with no intent to ever by a book from her in exchange at all. That she felt like she was being used as a dumping ground.

It was a really sad conversation. Her secondhand bookshop is small but has always been a good one. It’s the one my mother frequents  – she’s a voracious reader and was bringing in some really good condition, recently released books to swap. And the owner of the shop was well read and wandering around recommending books and answering questions – I threw a few at her as well. And there were some great customers who came in and shared a few recs and talked to me a bit about a few writers too. It’s a great little bookstore.

It’s easy to talk about the predicted future of the book industry and how brick and mortar stores and secondhand bookshops will die but it’s another thing to look at an experience that you genuinely love and realise that that too will go. Secondhand bookstores are a great meeting place, a great place to find recommendations and to chat over books and writers. And I know online you can get forums, and reviews and recommendations, and it’s not like I don’t buy books online or find my way to new titles via online means (or run a reviews website for that matter). But I don’t want one to be at the total expense of the other. I love bookstores too.

I bought some books – she has a pretty good Australian science fiction/fantasy section. And I made sure to push our expenditure over the required credit usage. Because I don’t want bookstores to die.

Tags: ,