There’s been a lot of ink spilt over the news that REDgroup Retail has gone into administration casting an uncertain future over its 26 Borders and 164 Angus & Robertson shops in Australia.
The autopsy reports vary. Some say the company was the victim of online retailing, others that it was just badly run. Former NSW premier, Bob Carr, said it was the inevitable result of flawed protectionist policies.
I’m not going to pretend I have the answers. All I know is that as an aspiring crime novelist, I doubt it’s going to make getting published any easier.
Of those who have thrown their ten cents into the debate, two are worth quoting in detail. Here’s what founder and publisher of Scribe Publications, Henry Rosenbloom, had to say:
“The REDgroup story is indeed a cautionary tale, but not of the type Carr (or some others) think. This is not a territorial-copyright story. Nor is it an internet-takes-over bookselling story.
Borders/A&R in its REDgroup incarnation was a very badly-run business, for which the owners, PEP, are responsible. The managers were bovver boys who alienated all their inherited knowledgeable staff (who left), made appalling decisions about stock selection and presentation, and tried to treat books like potatoes. They never listened, so their business declined drastically, and they ended up trying to sell giftware instead of books. It’s a very good example of why bookselling is not a corporate business — it’s a hands-on, detail-intensive business, with low profit-margins. Only people who love it and know what they’re doing can make a success of it — internet or no internet.”
The question of whether book selling and hard market economics are antithetical is an interesting question.
My friend, Guy Rundle’s comments here in Crikey about the longer term implications of the Redgroup Retail collapse are also worth thinking about.
“That is clearly changing rapidly and radically, and so the whole centrality of the shop is changing. It is no longer a necessary place, and so the high street no longer acts as the spatial core of a community. At some point a whole series of mainstream shops will succumb to insufficient, intermittent demand. Everyone will want to know they are there, but no-one will use them enough.”
The wider question, in terms of future life, is how we will sustain any form of public spatial life at all – as the last shared, necessary space dissolves. Doubtless we will, but there may be a long period before we realise that the very form of our lives is changing. That period has already begun.”
Last week’s events finally made me get off my arse and sign up for the Book Lovers Book Review Aussie Author Challenge, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. I have elected the ‘True Blue’ category, which means I have to read and review 12 crime books by at least 9 different Australian authors.
It’s a bit of an ambitious target, if I do say so myself.
Partly, I’ve done it to push myself to read more Australian crime and review it for Pulp Curry. Reading books takes time, especially if you intend to review them. Films are easier, which is why I do more of this for the site.
Partly, there’s a bit of self-interest, well, hell, a lot of self-interest. If I and other first time authors stand any chance of getting our books into print, we need a local publishing infrastructure to exist. That means people need to read Australian books, that means I better start practicing what I preach.
So, 12 Australian crime books by the end of the year and it’s nearly March. I’d better get my skates on.