Booksellers unite in new chapter to halt city exodus
For Chris Saliba, the owner of North Melbourne Books, finding creative ways to attract customers has been no easy feat amid repeated lockdowns.
But by banding with other bookshops he is hoping a new initiative called Melbourne City Reads will bring back readers of all kinds through their doors.
The book shops – Dymocks Collins Street, Hill of Content, Mary Martin Southbank and Queen Victoria Market, North Melbourne Books, The Paperback Bookshop, Readings Carlton, and Readings State Library – will showcase a different book each month with a 25 per cent discount on the cover price.
“Hopefully it’ll bring more business in,” Mr Saliba told North West City News.
“It’s been up and down but we’ve got a loyal customer base so we’re very lucky that way.”
This first title to be offered will be Small Joys of Real Life, the first novel by Allee Richards, which follows its protagonist, Eva, in her 20s, as she deals with the death of her lover, an unexpected pregnancy, a career crisis, and the joys and challenges of daily life in Melbourne’s inner north.
Richards will also discuss her novel at a free event at the Wheeler Centre on September 8 as part of this year’s Melbourne Writers Festival.
Other authors to be featured in the initiative – which is supported by the City of Melbourne and will run from August to November – include Miles Allinson, Emily Bitto, and Maxine Beneba Clarke.
Bookseller Mark Rubbo of Readings said he hoped the program would encourage passionate readers to buy books while celebrating a literary culture he believed to be “one of the richest in the world”.
He said lockdowns and a city office exodus had had a “terrible impact” on booksellers.
“Our shop in the State Library is 60 per cent down on its pre-COVID levels, [and] our Carlton shop 12 to 20 per cent down,” he said.
City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp said she hoped the program would “bring back the buzz” to the city “and encourage everyone to celebrate their inner bookworm”.
Melbourne’s bookshops are just as much a part of our culture as our laneways and restaurants.
“They offer endless entertainment and knowledge while shining a light on Melburnian writers and stories set in our marvellous city” •