Mark's Say: February, 2022
As I mentioned in one of my columns last year, the lockdowns had a terrible impact on the sale of books in bricks-and-mortar shops. For books that were first published during that period, they may never recover those lost sales. New South Wales and Victoria account for around 60% of all books sold nationally, so to lose a substantial amount of those sales is fairly significant. For most first-time authors, exposure in bookshops is very important in establishing a market for a book, be it a chance encounter, a recommendation or a purchase triggered by some form of publicity. If the book is any good, then word of mouth builds a more sustainable demand. Many of the books released in the past two years risk becoming Covid orphans.
The Australian Booksellers Association and its members want to rescue some of these books and give them another chance. They’re running a campaign during February highlighting books published during lockdown. Called ‘In Case You Missed It: 50 Must-Read Australian Books That You Might Have Missed’, the campaign features 50 books that ABA members will offer at a 20% discount. The selection includes fiction, crime, poetry, nonfiction and some of my favourites, including Adam Thompson’s short-story collection Born Into This and Evelyn Araluen’s poetry collection Dropbear. Both are by exciting emerging First Nations voices that I’m sure many will enjoy. Allee Richards’ Small Joys of Real Life is a sharp, contemporary novel about urban living that will resonate with many. Antoni Jach has been a mentor and teacher to many of our best-loved authors, and his eccentric, delightful collection of tales Travelling Companions is well worth a look. These are just a few of the marvellous books published during lockdown that Readings and other Australian booksellers will have on sale at the special discount. It’s a great opportunity for you to catch up on what you might have missed.
Of course, the success of this offer also depends on people feeling comfortable venturing out and visiting bookshops. As I write this, the surge in Covid infections, the overwhelming of the testing system and scarcity of of Rapid Antigen Tests has made many of us reluctant to leave our homes except for the most essential items. Although our shops are open again the traffic is way below what it would normally be. Our new shop at the Emporium opened 10 days before Christmas and we were excited by the overwhelmingly positive response to this beautiful new space. As it develops its own character, I’m sure it will become one of Melbourne’s great bookshops – if it’s not already! – and a worthy addition to Melbourne, a UNESCO City of Literature. The impact of the Omicron outbreak has been profound in the city and it’s delayed the launch of our planned lunchtime events program at the Emporium shop. Fortunately, we’ve had no reported instances (yet – knock on wood) of staff or customers contracting Covid while in our premises. We all hope that the situation improves and that we can return to a more normal state of affairs.