This is a bookshop, in Gunnedah.
Remember bookshops? They are places that sell printed books, things that you can buy and take away to read.
They are also places that you can visit when you are bored and want to pass the time. Standing there, you can browse the shelves, accessing a wide world of imagination and knowledge. You may not buy a book, but you at least pass the time and may emerge with new ideas.
Bookshops are dying. The big Westfield Eastgardens shopping centre is just down the road from my place. Millions of shoppers pass through its doors every year. Outside a very limited range at the ABC shop or the few mass publications carried by the chains, you cannot buy a book there. Its only bookshop closed in the commercial mess that flowed from Borders' commercial games. Think of it. Millions of customers and there is, apparently, insufficient demand for just one place selling books.
This is a bookshop, one of my favourites. It is in Armidale. Armidale still has a number of bookshops. Maybe country people are just slower to adjust to change. Maybe, just maybe, they are more discerning.
Visiting Armidale last weekend, I did as I always do, I went book shopping. I was looking for books about New England or written by people from New England. There I purchased Yve Louis's latest book of poems, A door in the forest. The English is absolutely wonderful.
Yve Louis is one of Australia's best poets. Sydney born, she now lives in Armidale and is a member of the Armidale poets. Reader's Companion doesn't make any money out of her work. They carry her as a service, something bookshops used to do because she is now a local.
This is important. The economics of the net combined with the technical constraints associated with e-publishing work against small niche publishers and especially against poetry. The physical design of the poem on the printed page can be very important, and this is hard to reproduce in common electronic formats. You will only find some of this stuff at bookstores.
Call me a troglodyte if you like. Say that I am old fashioned and that, like the dinosaur, I am bound to go extinct. But I do think that we need to draw the line if we can.
I am declaring the week starting Monday 22 October Visit a Bookstore Week. In that week I want you to visit bookstores near you and browse, talk to the staff, and buy a book. That's nearly all I ask. I say nearly all because I want my on-line colleagues to something additional.
Will you join with me in promoting the idea? Will you spread it? Can we make this a worthwhile?
Please join with me. Promote it in every way you can.
I remember the Readers Companion in Armidale, wonderful books... it sells such a variety - not just the standard boring mass published ones. There is a few places in New England where an independant book store still graces the streets: Armidale, Gunnedah and Inverell spring to mind. Alas, there are no independants where I live and there is only one chain store.
Rod is right. Peter Langston is another Australian poet carried by Reader's Companion. My enthusiasm is not shared by all. In a comment on Ramana's post, Cheerful Monk wrote: "I’ll pass. I’m hooked on Amazon, both real books and e-books. I also buy a lot of non-books from them–they have a great business model. That’s hard for brick-and-mortar stores, but great for those of us who live in the boondocks."