On the first day of The London Book Fair, Melbourne bookseller Readings has won the International Bookstore of the Year Award.

The business received the prize, which is a new category for 2016, in recognition of its “community outreach, support of Australian authors and its help for non-profit organisations working on literacy initiatives”.

Readings was up against bookstores in China, Italy and Estonia. Readings managing director Mark Rubbo says independent Australian bookstores are the envy of the publishing world.

“We have a strong influence on the industry, compared to England and America. The overseas market is dominated by big international houses,” he says.

Earlier this year, Readings announced two new stores are on the way in 2016: one in Westfield Doncaster, and the other as part of an expansion at the Lygon Street store.

After the closures of major chains, such as Borders and Angus & Robertson in 2011 (they are operating online only as Bookworld and Angus & Robertson Bookworld, now owned by Booktopia), Australians are showing they are in favour of independent stores.

Rubbo thinks it has something to do with a desire to be diverse. “Australians are fiercely independent. We value that independent streak,” he says.

Although well-loved for its knowledgeable staff and extensive range, that wasn’t all that helped Readings take home the award.

The Readings Foundation supports development of literacy, community integration and the arts, something Rubbo says sets it apart from the competition.

“We donate 10 per cent of our overall profit to the foundation each year,” he says.

Learn more about The Readings Foundation here.