The future of the Bookshop – interview with the owner of one of Brisbane’s older book outlets

old bookshop

Nick Sherry drew a lot of media coverage (and opprobrium from bookshop owners/representatives) this week for his suggestion that in five years time, the traditional book store as we know it will barely exist outside of major cities.  By total coincidence (or as an example of my uncanny ability to tap into current stories even before they’ve happened), I interviewed Hamish Alcorn, the proprietor of Brisbane bookstore Archives Fine Books, on my weekly radio show at the start of this week.

You can listen to the interview by clicking on this link (apologies the sound quality isn’t so flash). The other person speaking in the first part of the interview is Peter Black, who I talk with each week on my show.

Archives Books has been around for about 30 years in Brisbane, and is probably not your archetypal bookstore – in fact I think it is fairly unique even across Australia. But it still provides a good insight into the challenges facing independent bookstores across the board.

We examine not just the future of bookstores, but also the possible future facing authors, how much of the current difficulties for bookstores are due to online purchasing or wider factors such as the cost of books or the difficulties facing the retail sector as a whole. Not to mention how bookstores themselves can best engage with the online world.

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  1. Any possibility of a transcript of this interview? I am Deaf and would love to read the interview.

  2. Good news from Hamish with regards to lowering prices – since I noticed I could buy books on-line cheaper than at Archive’s, I haven’t bothered going back. I like hanging out there, but without the feeling of getting a bargain it’s not so attractive.

  3. Linked here is a discussion of shopping on-line from the National Seniors of Australia blog. Some of their comment threads have been deleted due to serious abuse by some bloggers, but not this one (yet).

    Some people are buying goods online to dodge paying the GST.

    Two bookstores which have gone broke here in Brisbane are Borders and Angus & Robertson. It will not come as any surprise that neither is owned by Woolworths, No. 3 in Australia’s top 2000 companies.

    I will have to listen to Andrew’s interview later.

    I think people are purchasing fewer books overall, due to tightening of household budgets. I bet plenty are beating a path to public libraries.

  4. If you look carefully at the bookshops listed by you’ll find a range of prices for the same book available in Aussie bookshops.

    Beware also that, e.g. is NOT Australian, they are in NZ and save at least the GST, and don’t have the bricks and mortar I enjoy browing in on my annual trips to the big smoke.

    Buying online isn’t necessarily the same as not buying from an Australian business .. but when it is, just remember what the directors of e.g. Angus & Robertson used to do with their money. Did they holiday in a caravan park in the country that gave them their profits? You know what I think? I think they went overseas and had fabulous holidays and bought foreign-made clothes and all the rest of it. We working class are supposed to buy Australian, and I do, but no more exclusively than the rich do.

  5. I’m afraid the NSA has axed all of the comments attached to my link. They seem to be going overboard on deleting content at the moment.

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