In 2011, the then-Minister for Small Business, Nick Sherry, predicted that by 2016, book stores would no longer exist.
"In five years, other than a few specialist booksellers in capital cities, we will not see a bookstore, they will cease to exist," he said.
Who would have thought, then, that five years on, a Melbourne bookstore would not only be surviving, but thriving.
A long-standing centre of the literary scene, local institution Readings will open two new Melbourne stores in addition to its existing five in Carlton, Hawthorn, Malvern, St Kilda and the State Library of Victoria.
“Things have really picked up in the last year,” says managing director, Mark Rubbo. “The industry settled down and I think all that talk of bookstores dying out is finally ceasing – obviously there’s a market because people still frequent them.”
The first of the new stores will be a purpose-built young-adult and children’s bookshop, adjacent to the existing Carlton Store on Lygon Street.
According to Rubbo, children’s-book sales in particular are continuing to grow dramatically. “People want to get their kids away from an iPad,” he says.
The youth-focused store seems a natural progression for the company after the establishment of the Readings Children’s Book Prize in 2014. Its reception far exceeded organisers’ expectations – with more than 1000 copies of the winning books were sold after the annual prize was awarded in 2014 and 2015.
The second new store will open in Westfield Doncaster. The first one in the franchise to open in a shopping centre, Rubbo says Readings is responding to a lack of independent bookstores in the eastern suburbs.
Rubbo maintains that the success of the Readings stores is down to a central philosophy. “It isn’t all about the transactions,” he says. “We want to be a positive influence on the industry and support local writers and illustrators.”
The existing children’s and young-adult section in the Carlton store will become home to a more extensive collection of visual arts and architectural literature.
The new Carlton store will open in late May or early June 2016. The Westfield Doncaster store is scheduled for early August 2016.