NEW YORK WEATHER

“The cities are dead,” Australian Booksellers Association chief executive office Robbie Egan told us, “and that has been brutal.”

For bookshops, the experience of the pandemic depends on their location: those in regional towns have flourished, while those in the business districts of our locked-down cities have been “decimated” as one bookseller put it late last year.

Love for independent bookshops is a distinctive feature of Australian book culture. Bookshops have withstood many 21st century threats: the ubiquity of Amazon, its proprietary e-book software, divisions within the publishing industry over parallel importation restrictions and social media’s theft of our precious leisure time from slower practices like reading.

While the number of independent bookshops in the United Kingdom experienced a steep decline in the early 2000s, Australian independent bookshops have proven resilient. In 2020, Australia had approximately 25% more independent bookshops than chain outlets like Dymocks and Collins.

When they closed for lockdowns in 2020, bookshops lost their advantage over their online counterparts. Suddenly, customers could no longer browse and found it harder to chat to a well-read shop assistant. Still, with more time on our hands, book purchases increased. But reliant on click and collect or home delivery, independent bookshops struggled to compete with Amazon and its Australian equivalent Booktopia, whose sales soared.

Covid-19 restrictions also prevented activities…

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