In these days of the instant and the online (and I’m as guilty? of that as anyone I suppose) it’s good to be reminded about the importance of that most valued and rare object; the quality bookshop.
And I was reminded of that again, ironically, in Laurie Duggan’s most recent blog post on the virtues of Collected Works Bookshop inMelbourne. Run by the legendary Kris Hemensley, (read an AGE tribute to him HERE), Collected Works is simply the best place to buy in poetry in Melbourne. Melbourne is a literary city, with more good bookshops than most cities its size, but Collected Works is the best of them when it come to poetry. Collected Works was under threat from a rent increase late last year but things seem to be okay now.
Here’s an extract from Kris’s piece published online from the Ballarat Writers Centre late last year:
My Fellow Australians…
We will fight them on the beaches…
no, start again!
We’ve had to consider our future in light of the expected rent rise for our bookshop, to take effect 1st January 11… And, though it may be an extension of the same folly which had us open up in the first place, we will continue! The prospect of moving elsewhere was as awful as that of closing! But the price of the new 4 year lease will hurt, unless I can generate more sales and support. The point about the Shop is that though it is a little company, in the market place, it’s never been profit oriented. Most of the receipts go into stock. The wages are minimal. Rent and stock are the major outgoings. The purpose of the Shop has always been to support writing, especially poetry–Australian Poetry and literature within an international literary context.
That’s the rationale which makes the bookshop unique (certainly in Australia and New Zealand, possibly further afield). We obviously have sufficient support to be mentioned in the City of Literature document, but for all sorts of reasons support through the bead curtain is less than it might be. The recent rent hike squeezes us even more!
The question remains, is there a place for an actual bookshop in this time of online purchasing, the ebook and other new technologies? A rhetorical question for me : the bookshop is a home for readers and writers of poetry and prose, a home for little presses, a venue for launches and readings, as it has been for 25 years or so. In a word, we’re there for cultural as well as bookselling reasons.
Our acceptance of the new lease will probably be sent this week!
It will be a great encouragement to know if you support us
Perhaps a start might be making a new “friends of Collected Works” address list (email), for Melbourne and Australia generally. If you’re interested please do write or phone or visit us!
Long may Collected Works continue!
[Kris Hemensley photo from Flickr by AdrianWiggins]