This is a piece from the archives of my old blog. I wrote it back in 2012, and it was interesting to read it over and see how the main points have held true. Here it is, with just a few tweaks for 2015.
I'd been sad in previous years because the main Christian bookshop chains
in Australia didn't seem to support their compatriots the way we would like them
to. The truth is they honestly believed they were. They thought that poking a few copies of our books on their shelves was really
going all out for us. They declared, 'We support fellow Australians' but never gave our books the same exposure they would give American ones.
When asked why, they'd reply, 'Australian books don't sell! But we're
still supporting you because at least we have them on our shelves. Anybody who is
looking for you will find you. Or if they can't, they only need to ask
us.' It always gave the impression that even fellow-Aussies (the
bookshops) thought we were producing second rate material without even bothering to read it. The fact is, many Australian authors write wonderful,
thought-provoking, entertaining and compelling books.
The last few years have revealed how shortsighted I'd been without knowing, for my dependent attitude on the book stores. For over a decade,
I'd been regarding them as monoliths we need to scale, and
getting featured in their catalogues was making it closer to the pinnacle.
Well, the spread of ebooks has shown us that maybe we don't need to be Sir Edmund Hilary in
the business of writing and selling books after all. Huge structures can actually crumble suddenly while we're still trying
to scale them.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall, an apparently permanent and impregnable
bastion, was dismantled seemingly overnight. After
hundreds of years of supremacy, the Roman Empire ended in quite an
unobtrusive way. The strength of its citizens was undermined by the lead
pipes of their water system, of all things. Poor Henry V died of
dysentery soon after winning the Battle of Agincourt, when he was on the
pinnacle of having both England and France under his feet. Napoleon's
topple from his pedastal has become a proverb, as he faced Lord Nelson
at the Battle of Trafalgar and 'met his Waterloo.' And King Belshazzar
of Babylon was feasting and carousing when he and his company suddenly
read 'the writing on the wall.' In the morning, his reign was over. And
just last week, my son, Blake, and I learned during a history lesson
that the mighty Attila the Hun died of a nosebleed! History reinforces
the folly of relying on huge structures, but it's a hard lesson to
believe when they appear so solid.
As for bookshops, I thought I could sense their foundations beginning to
tremble back in 2012, and three years has reinforced it. At that time, I was browsing in Borders bookshop, near the
iconic silver balls in Adelaide. After passing their Gloria Jean cafe, where many
people were eating and drinking, I took the escalator to the top storey
and sat in a plush armchair to look at books. Nothing could have seemed
more opulent and substantial. But a few short weeks later, before I had time to make another trip
down from the Hills into Adelaide, it was gone! Angus & Robertson
followed on its heels. And Word bookstore, which had been in the heart
of Adelaide for as long as I could remember, had been forced to shuffle
out to some obscure suburb I never visit. At present, Dymocks still seems to be holding on, and I'm sure we all hope it will last.
It's fairly obvious what is shaking the foundations of bookshops. In
January 2012, I was given a kindle. Now, my days of driving down to Adelaide
especially to visit Koorong are over (or at least very rare). Electronic books are cheap, swift
to download and don't have a shelf life. I'm pretty sure that if I have a
recommendation for some good old book written years ago, I'll have more
chance finding them on Amazon than in Koorong, Dymocks or any other
shop. It seems that e-books may be the iceberg to the Titanic of the
bookshops. Just twenty or even ten years ago, whoever would have
Although there is sadness in this situation, there are a few positive
thoughts for writers like myself. We no longer need to
get downhearted because the big bookstores aren't interested in us.
'Big' seems to be shrinking daily. We
need to keep our chins up, never stop writing or producing whatever we
do best, and trust that more opportunities are opening up to spread our
voices further than we might believe possible. As King Hezekiah was
warned by God not to trust in the horses and chariots of Egypt, I
believe He would say the same thing to authors regarding bookshops.
Ironically, straight after I originally wrote this post, they televised 'You've Got Mail' with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. Do you remember loving that movie in the 90s as much as I did? Her quaint, family-owned bookshop was forced out of business by his mega-chain. Who would have believed that in such a short period of time, even his mighty business would be getting shaky?
If you liked this post, you may also like my list comparing electronic and hard copy books.