AS someone who has spent practically all their working life at a newspaper (until recently), I feel slightly ill at the thought of the printed book becoming obsolete. I don’t think it will happen, in the same way as I don’t believe The End of Newspapers means the end of good journalism. But like the media industry, the printed word is currently in a unprecedented position. Change is inevitable, and welcome, but making news today (in Australia, anyway) is the announcement that Amazon has now officially opened its Australian Kindle Shop in an attempt to lure away customers from independent booksellers. Anyone living in Australia who loves buying books understands the dilemma: books are expensive, with paperbacks ranging around $35 and new hardbacks, anything up to $50, so while fantastic, independent shops struggle to keep their customers, the lure of cheap books often wins out.
I’ll admit it, I’ve used a couple of the massive online sites, but rarely and these days I search Bookworld before heading off shore. What online can’t give me is pleasure of walking into my local bookshop, the tactile satisfaction that comes with browsing books on a shelf, the exchanges that happen when you talk with experts who understand books and know what you like. For me, and extra $10 is worth the price if it supports independent bookstores and our writing industry.
I’m lucky enough to live in Melbourne – a UNESCO City of Literature and although some have fallen by the way, we’re still spoilt when it comes to bookshops, amazing places that help shape the city: San Francisco has City Lights, Paris has Shakespeare & Co, London has Dents, Portland has Powell’s and here, we have Readings, Hill of Content, The Avenue, Collected Works, The Sun Bookshop, Embiggen Books, My Bookshop, Hares&Hyenas, and The Little Bookroom, to name but a few. I can’t imagine my city without these fantastic stores.