Monday, February 02, 2009
Among all the economic doom-and-gloom talk, it was nice to hear of a good-news story, albeit somewhat accidental. During last year, a number of long-established book distribution businesses merged and were then sold on to a third party. The upshot was that the original owners of the businesses each received a substantial cheque once all the dust had settled. One of these book-trade veterans decided to take a well-earned, extended holiday, and simply deposited his cheque in the bank before jetting off. His accountant kept urging by email and text message for him to move his windfall from the ‘low-yielding’ bank account to the ‘lucrative’ stock market, but to no avail: the holiday was not to be interrupted; business matters could be dealt with later on. And just as well our chap stuck to his guns: by the time his holiday was over, the stock market had crashed and he saved himself a fortune by doing precisely nothing!
Our new(-ish) Prime Minister has always seemed to me like the bookish sort, and indeed he was spotted in a well-known Melbourne bookshop (you know, that one on Lygon St) just before Christmas. According to the Age’s John Elder he even went so far as to praise bookshops as ‘temples of the soul’. After shaking many hands with other browsers, posing for photos and coo-cooing at babies, what books did the PM actually buy? Apparently his stash included Nuns Having Fun, copies of Harpers and the New Yorker, Tom Holland’s Millennium: The End of the World and the Forging of Christendom and Simon Schama’s The American Future. ‘In fact, there were a couple of other items he’d earlier selected being kept discreetly under the counter,’ the Age revealed, somewhat breathlessly, ‘notably The Chaser Annual 2008.’
I always like to receive correspondence, and while I prefer it to be invitations to glamorous parties, the occasional anonymous gripe also has its place in my in-box. Thus, ‘an anonymous bookseller’ writes: ‘I’d like to point out an irritation I have with the publishers now pricing their books with “$x.99 cents”. Do they think customers don't realise that we cannot give one-cent change or that the book is actually cheaper than pricing it up to the full dollar? I feel quite stupid telling customers a book is $19.99 (a bit like a used car salesman). We all know they upped it from 95 cents to gain that extra four cents, but really why not show a bit of integrity and price it to the full dollar? I am interested to see if I am the only one that feels this way.’ Correspondence in reply to the usual address, please …
I’m afraid I have share a distinctly unhappy Christmas story. West Australian bookseller Eric Ladhams had a shocking end to his 2008 after vandals broke into his store, Boab Books. The shop lost around $50,000 worth of stock when local children with whom Ladhams had clashed earlier in the week pulled the books off the shelves and poured milkshake syrup over them, before destroying the store’s computers, cool room and cafe. ‘Nothing was stolen,’ Ladhams told the Weekly Book Newsletter, ‘they just came in purely to smash and destroy.’ ‘Even if I could have afforded new stock, it would have taken three or four weeks to get there, so our Christmas trade was basically nil’. Two 14-year-olds have been charged, while four nine-year-olds have received juvenile cautions. Boab Books is now for sale.