Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The end of bookshops in 5 years.

Booksellers' jaws dropped today upon hearing that federal Minister for Small Business Nick Sherry had predicted that online shopping would wipe out general bookstores within five years.
The minister said this morning he expected that only specialist players in capital cities would survive.

Read the entire article here

Do I believe it? No
Am I sad? Very
Australian booksellers are outraged - as they would be. I'm still not sure what to think. So I'm going to try break my thoughts down into dot points. 

  • I don't believe that all bookshops will close, and I certainly don't think that 'specialist players' will survive (sorry to say it). In fact, I think the opposite will happen. I think many more bookshops will close in the coming years, and  the specialist bookshops ESPECIALLY will shut down. Independent bookshops, I think, will survive this prediction. 
  • Buying books online has the same problems as buying clothes online. Sometimes things don't fit. You can read reviews and get a sense of what you want to read by word of mouth, but I think that actually flicking through and having a try at the writing style before committing to the purchase, is priceless. I've bought books online, read the first few pages and not wanted to continue. And then you're stuck with it. 
  • Even though I'm guilty of buying books online, there is still nothing I enjoy more than going into a bookshop and spending time walking slowly through the aisles - looking at all the beautiful covers, the spines lined up like european houses, and talking to the passionate staff.
  • I'm not against buying online. I buy a lot of books online. Because at the end of the day I'm still supporting the authors and the Australian publishing industry. 
  • When eBooks first started, everyone was claiming 'the death of the book.' But that hasn't happened, nor do I think it will. I think the notion that bookshops will all close due to online shopping is excessive. Yes, it will definitely affect the book selling industry. But I doubt it will be detrimental. 
  • Rather than making such a heartbreaking prediction, there needs to be more action to stop this. Not just for the bookshops, but for financial reasons. Hundreds of thousands of Australian dollars, every day, are going overseas to online purchases because we don't pay GST on the goods, while the industry spends money importing overseas goods to sell here. If Australia wants to protect it's book selling industry AND it's economy, there needs to an added GST on imported goods. That way, hopefully, people will be more inclined to buy in local bookshops. 
Sorry if that was a jumble of thoughts. 

What does everyone think about that prediction? How do you feel?


  1. Yikes. 5 years? I'm not sure what to think. On the one hand, it's still true that people like to read physical books (including myself). On the other hand, since the production of ereaders like the Kindle, that group of people that need physical books is dwindling. I would include myself in the group that likes physical books, but since owning my Kindle, I primarily purchase ereader versions. The amount of times I've stepped into an actual bookstore has drastically sloughed off...not intentionally, mind you! Just out of convenience.

    I don't think print will disappear, but I think it'll be more difficult to get things in print, ie a trad publisher will only publish things that have already proven to have good sells. I guess we'll see what the next five years bring!

  2. This makes me so sad! I'm a complete lover of real paper-and-ink books, and there is nothing I love more than a good bookstore!

    But I think you're right... while the book industry certainly won't go under completely (there will always be us readers who enjoy the bookstore shopping experience) this is--and will continue to be--a huge blow to the book industry. Its sad.

    I never thought about it from an Australian perspective, though. Living in the states I think we take for granted that not as many things have to be imported. You've definitely opened my eyes to the fact that the ebook/online craze will affect different problems for other countries. I certainly hope Nick Sherry is wrong about the 5 year thing. That would be very sad for you!

  3. I don't think bookstores will disappear. I think shopping online has it's place, and I love shopping online for books sometimes, but I also love going into a bookstore and just browsing. You can't do that in an online interface.

    There will always be a reason to have physical bookstores, the reasons just might be fewer.

  4. Julie - It must be so different in America! My boyfriend is from there and can't really understand why the Australian industry is in such grief! Borders is still massive in the US, but it's closing here for good.