Ok, so I’m going to romanticize bookstores. Well, why not? Soon the good old days of taking in the atmosphere of a quality bookstore could be over right? Online buying (mainly) has already driven chains such as Borders and Angus & Robertson into oblivion, or, ironically, to online sales only.
I’m optimistic that bookstores can survive, despite the onslaught of online stores and now E-Readers such as the Kindle. They need to be smart, they need to engage and mainly they need to be independent boutique shops that offer a bit more than just racks of books that you could get anywhere. They need to foster the experience of exploring and discovering books that you’ve never heard of. They need to stock obscure authors or exclusive editions to wet your appetite. Most of all humble book buyer, they need your support. Sure you can buy most books online cheaper than at your local bookstore and I don’t begrudge you that. But what if you bought every third book from a local bookstore? (yes, you should have one to nurture). What if you enjoyed the experience of cruising down to the shop and breathing in the refined air of all those books lined up just waiting for you to take them home? Also you’ll be helping the local economy rather than your money going to a faceless overseas company that has fewer overheads and the advantage of a vastly bigger market than your local store. Online retailers can sell books for lower prices and still make more money because of the huge volume of books they ship. Why not support a local store that pays local people to work there. Actually talking to people in the store, most often big readers them-selves, can point you in new and interesting reading directions. This is what happened to me at Planet Books and led me to discover Roberto Bolano.
Planet Books is a superb bookstore and is worth supporting because they do everything right. It’s simply browsing heaven and will soon have a coffee shop as well, so you can combine two loves if you are also into coffee. Browsing online sucks in comparison to cruising the wooden shelves and rug-lined floors of Planet Books. There’s great posters wallpapered to the walls, leather couches (try before you buy is definitely encouraged) and a great pyramid chandelier – it has class, atmosphere and most importantly thousands of books. Planet stock everything, and I mean everything, from the obscure just waiting to be discovered to the latest releases you know you want, all lined and piled up in bibliographic lusciousness. It’s tactile, it’s funky, it’s tasteful, it’s an adventure and most importantly it makes you feel good. As a bonus if you subscribe to that other Mt Lawley institution RTRFM that lives just above Planet, then you’ll get 10% off everything just by flipping them your subscriber’s card. Those of you reading this overseas have a think about what great bookstores are in your area and do yourself a favour and go and have a browse.