We’ve missed that feeling of walking back amongst a bookshop’s shelves. As a book publisher, it’s an integral feeling to everything that we do. That’s why we’ll be spending this summer heading to our local bookshop again and again. And here to convince you to do the same, is our passionate and award-winning sales rep Mandy Wildsmith.
Open wide, come inside. Bookshops are back!
For the best part of 2020 and 2021 the bookshops in Melbourne and regional Victoria have had their doors closed. The pandemic made in-person browsing, spine touching and book-sniffing impossible. And yet, we have all managed to read our way through the many quiet months of lockdown.
During that time, local bookshops have worked tirelessly to still service their customers to the best of their ability with no-one in their stores. They have delivered books, had interviews with authors, created children’s competitions, hosted Youtube storytime, and even cooked with chefs.
The tide has turned now. Bookshops are allowed to open, after two years of yo-yoing open and closed. I am here to tell you what is so exciting about returning in real life to the bookshop and the importance of why local shopping matters.
Step inside and follow me.
There is no rational explanation on how a bookshop makes you feel when you first walk in. It is visceral and I would defy anyone to say they don’t feel welcomed, excited, connected and even warm and fuzzy. The bookshop is also a place of solace and refuge for some people. You can be completely in your own world immersed in print with no obligation to talk. It is richly energising looking at a literary landscape of bookshops; books rubbing shoulders with each other spanning generations, centuries, and genres to tell their story. When you walk into a bookshop, the rest of the world melts away and you are left with a quiet maze of possibility with another set of eyes to spark your imagination and create excitement – the bookseller.
Staff picks can at last be read in real life again. This insight is invaluable and often the reader will align themselves with a staff member who has similar tastes. You can trust their decision making, and with this aided browsing comes new discoveries with books you have never heard of. There is a magical serendipity a bookshop provides just by being able to walk the shelves. There is nothing better than stumbling across a new book or author, which could have been missed with doors closed. Hundreds of amazing titles have been released this year, some with little to no social media attention. Now, we only have to wander past a staff recommendation to be informed. It is impossible to sift through this information on a laptop.
High on a bookshop agenda is care. With their resourcefulness, they provide an incredible service to the customer, and they do this by getting to know you and what you want – placing the right book in your hand every time. This is an important reason why we should be so excited to once again walk into our local bookshops.
They form a friendship and connection where you can share feelings and discussions about ideas. Isolation has meant we have missed out on this, and books are conversations.
The feeling you receive in supporting your local community cannot be measured. Shopping local directly supports and enriches your own community with your purchase. Bookshops are places rich in ideas, empathy, opinions and a mark of authenticity showing the depth of the local village. It is more than selling books. Bookshops have become meeting places with book launches, author chats, poetry readings, or maybe just for meeting a neighbour for a snoop down the aisle and a coffee afterwards. You can overhear conversations in your local bookshop and recommendations, discovering what other people are reading. Bookshops know their local community so well it affects how they order and they will order to suit their demographic – your personal needs. You cannot find this intimate knowledge about individual customers preferences on this scale anywhere. I am talking about hundreds of books in one place to suit so many personalities, bringing a sense of vibrancy to a community. The excitement and satisfaction of a book found by the bookseller to suit your reading is worth the visit in real life. Squeals of delight and affirmations of a book recognised, anticipated, remembered, forgotten, and sought after is priceless. The breadth of knowledge the staff possess is the reason for coming back and a passion for books is the secret recipe. They know you and a shared love of a book is somehow intimate and special.
So, endeth the lesson. How a bookshop makes you feel, staff recommendations, personal care, depth of knowledge and the importance of shopping local is a glimpse of how excited we should be to race into our local bookshop now the doors are open. Life without bookshops isn't a story worth telling.
So I am shouting from the rafters – open wide, come inside. Bookshops are back!
About the Author
Mandy Wildsmith has been a sales rep for more than 20 years, with the last 11 years spent at Hardie Grant. She is a four-time Victorian rep of the year winner. She loves ginger tabbies, all bookstores, magic tricks and enjoys looking at the night sky with a glass of Riesling. In that order.