The defiance of indie bookshops

The odds are stacked against independent bookshops.

The emergence of companies like Amazon, discount prices available at Big W and impatient consumers have greatly changed the culture of buying books.

The purchasing power of large retailers allows them to buy books in bulk from their suppliers and sell them at lower prices than their indie counterparts.

Technology has also had an impact – devices like the Amazon Kindle have created consumers who favour convenience and practicality, choosing a virtual library over a physical one.

Despite these challenges the industry is still optimistic about the future.

Planet Books employee Kris Perttula attributes slow delivery services and customer impatience to independent bookshops holding their own.

“Large amount of sales are people coming in saying I couldn’t get it online or I can’t wait,” Kris says.

Where do you buy your books?
Photo: Simone Grogan.

“If you’re excited to read or learn and if you as an independent bookstore have that book, then we can compete with that.”

He says bookstores are vital for customers to discover books they wouldn’t normally read.

“Where independent booksellers actually have a place is the serendipity of actually walking around and getting exposed to books that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen,” he says.

Bookshops encourage readers to diversify their collection.
Photo: Simone Grogan.

“Whatever opinions or views you have are echoed but the minute you go into a different bookstore even within Perth, there’s a huge amount of variety.”

He acknowledges there is still the matter of cost and convenience to compete with but that the issue often comes down to different types of readers.

” ‘I can fit thousands of books in this device and it weighs half a kilogram and I can take it while I travel’ – those people you can’t convince. That’s their number one priority and that’s where the Kindle is going to always win. “

Old fashioned stacks of books at Planet Books in Mt Lawley.
Photo: Planet Books.

Australian Society of Authors CEO Juliet Roberts says there is plenty for independent bookshops to capitalise on.

“I think there’s been a change in recent times that social media and the internet might not be the answer to every woe,” she says.

“There is nothing as good as walking into bookshop and trusting the judgement of the person you’re talking to.”

She says consumers are starting to make the connection and purchase books more thoughtfully.

“I think that people are understanding that buying online is OK if you know what you want to buy,” she says.

“People are making the connection that if you don’t support your  local community retailers you won’t have them.”