Mark’s Say, October 2020

You might be surprised to know that year-to-date books sales in Australia are up 7.7% on last year, despite Victorian bookshops being pretty much closed for the last two and a half months. It’s good news for the Australian book industry, and heartening to see books being embraced as a means of inspiration and escape in the Netflix age. At Readings, our shop sales are down around 80%, but it’s not as bad as it sounds as our online sales are up 450%. That’s nowhere near enough to make up the shortfall, but it’s enough to mean that most of our staff have some shifts to keep them engaged and employed. Thank you so much for your support.

As I write this, wonderful new October books are streaming into our shops. Yesterday, Richard Flanagan’s The Living Sea of Waking Dreams and Trent Dalton’s All Our Shimmering Skies arrived, today Craig Silvey’s long-awaited Honeybee is being unboxed, as is middle- grade fiction sensation Hollowpox, the latest in the Nevermoor series by Jessica Townsend – and that is just to name a few! It is a wonderful selection of books for the Christmas season, one of the best ever. Sadly, our doors are still more or less closed and there’s no one to see this cornucopia of delights, however, it does look like if everything goes according to the metro Melbourne public health plan, we’ll be able to reopen around the 19th of October.

When the Victorian Premier announced the second lockdown, my heart sank; it was worse than the first. I spoke to Richard Flanagan about his book on the morning after the announcement and told him I thought I couldn’t go on. A few hours later, he rang back to say that the thought of a depressed Rubbo had been preying on his mind. That call helped lift me. Once we get through this, then we’ll be in the clear, I thought. The spectre of a third lockdown was (and is) too terrible to contemplate, and I embraced Dan’s strategy despite its pain.

So, now we are coming out the other side; it will be so nice to see people in the shop looking at books, talking about books and engaging with our booksellers. But it will be different. Social distancing will still be in place and that’s going to mean that we’ll all have to plan how we shop for Christmas. Last Christmas, at our Carlton shop, in the ten days before Christmas we had on average 4000 customers a day; with social distancing we’ll only be able to accommodate 1200 customers a day – that’s 70% fewer customers. So, if you love books and love giving books as gifts, I urge you not to be like me and leave everything to the last minute. The global supply chain is under immense pressure, so the books that you want may sell out. We are planning ways to make it easier for you to shop early. Our Summer Reading Guide will be out in early November, and our enews will give you up-to-date news about books and what’s happening – if you haven’t already, you can sign up here. You can also continue to shop from home – as long as you get your online orders in by the 6th of December to allow enough time for shipping!

So, as I am reminding myself, remember to think this when planning your Christmas shop: October and November for December!


Mark Rubbo is the managing director of Readings.

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The Living Sea of Waking Dreams

The Living Sea of Waking Dreams

Richard Flanagan

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