In this world of e-books and e-readers bookshops have become endangered species across the world. Many have already been forced to close but others are taking the battle back to the buying public with events like National Bookshop Day being celebrated right across Australia this Saturday.
Many bookshops have planned a packed program of literary entertainment from games for kids, visits by authors and even free books, 25,000 of them being given away around the country.
The smart bookshop owners (and there are plenty around) aren’t wasting their energy fighting the e-book phenomenon but are creating relationships with publishers and distributers that mean their customers can benefit from lower prices and convenience whilst still supporting the bricks and mortar shop. True, the prices aren’t as low as via giants like Amazon, but at least part of the money is staying in Australia (or whichever is the country of purchase) via tax paid on the sale and local book industry employment.
Other ways bookshops are fighting back against the on-line giants is through the personal touch. My local bookshop, the independent Pages and Pages in Sydney, has regular guest authors in-store, literary lunches and dinners with high profile writers as star attractions, and a popular Book Club. It’s also the place where you can literally surround yourself with the latest editions, browse uninterrupted to your heart’s content and have a great, informed conversation.
For an insider’s view on the social value of supporting bookshops, have a look at The Bookshop Strikes Back, a slim book based on an essay by Ann Patchett, top-selling author of books like Bel Canto and State of Wonder. It tells how she and two friends bought Parnassus Books, in her hometown of Nashville, when it faced closure and have turned it into a thriving bookie hangout.
Don’t get me wrong. E-books are a fabulous addition to our literary arsenal. But there is still nothing that quite matches the magic of opening a new book and turning the first page. So, wherever you are on Saturday, take time to pop into your local bookshop and help make sure the power of old tech books and booksellers, doesn’t completely disappear into the electronic ether.