Carlton bookseller joins new chapter to entice readers amid lockdowns

Carlton bookseller joins new chapter to entice readers amid lockdowns
Brendan Rees

Like many booksellers, Mark Rubbo of Readings bookshop in Carlton has found it tough to attract new customers amid repeated lockdowns.

But through a new program called Melbourne City Reads he hoped readers of all kinds would be back through his doors in droves once the lockdown ended.

His shop, along with Hill of Content bookshop in Bourke St, Mary Martin Southbank and Queen Victoria Market, North Melbourne Books, The Paperback Bookshop, Readings Carlton, and Readings State Library (which is temporarily closed), will showcase a different book each month with a 25 per cent discount on the cover price.   

The program began in August with bookshops promoting and selling Joys of Real Life, a first novel by Allee Richards. This month In Moonland by Melbourne author Miles Allinson will be on offer, followed by Wild Abandon by Emily Bitto, and in November Maxine Beneba Clarke’s collection of poems, How Decent Folk Behave.

Mr Rubbo welcomed Melbourne City Reads, saying his stores across inner-city Melbourne had so far sold 400 copies of Small Joys of Real Life.

“By banding together, the Melbourne City Reads bookshops hope to encourage our city’s passionate readers to revisit their local bookshop and purchase books by local writers, celebrating the literary culture that I firmly believe to be one of the richest in the world,” he said.

“The protracted lockdowns and the depopulation of city offices has had a terrible impact on bookshops in the City of Melbourne area.”

He added revenue at his Lygon St shop was 70 per cent down on normal trade with his State Library bookshop having “totally closed” until the lockdown ended.

“Click-and-collect and phone orders keep us occupied. It’s a weird place to be in at the moment.”

Miles Allinson told Inner City News he felt “pretty chuffed” that his novel had been chosen after his initial face-to-face launch was cancelled. “It’s a big honour,” he said, adding the promotion will “make some difference”. 

“There’s never been a more important time to support bookshops … they’re such precious places, a soul of a city in some ways.”

In describing his novel, In Moonland, which took him six years to complete, Mr Allinson said, “It’s a book that goes from the 1970s through to the new future so it looks at the relationship between generations and the way the memory works across time”.

“Sometimes we don’t get a choice about what we remember and sometimes memories continue to reverberate across generations in terms of inherited trauma, for instance.”

His book also explores “the question of spiritual experience and how you integrate that into your ordinary life”.

Mr Allinson said while the lockdown had been “frustrating at the moment” it meant valuable time with his young daughter while also an opportunity to write a children’s book as well as “a plan for another novel”.  

City of Melbourne Lord Mayor Sally Capp encouraged everyone to “celebrate their inner bookworm” through the new program. 

“Melbourne’s bookshops are just as much a part of our culture as our laneways and restaurants,” she said. 

“They offer endless entertainment and knowledge while shining a light on Melburnian writers and stories set in our marvellous city.” •

Caption: Mark Rubbo of Readings Carlton with Melbourne author Miles Allinson (right) promoting his new book, In Moonland.

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