The changing face of bookselling in Melbourne


WHERE HAVE all Melbourne’s bookshops gone? Well, above is a Google Map of the city’s bookshops in 1998, 13 years ago, based on data from the National Book Council’s Bookshops of Victoria (3rd edition), which was the first book we published. There were 73 book outlets in the CBD listed in the publication. How does it compare with the bookselling scene now?

Well there are some notable absentees: Readers Feast, Angus & Robertson (both closed this year), Daimaru (closed 2002), McGills (closed 2009), while only Hill of Content remains of the Collins chain after its 2005 troubles (although the chain has since bounced back as a franchise-based organisation).

There are some familiar names still in business, such as Melbourne Sports Books, Collected Works, Hyland’s Bookshop, the Foreign Language Bookshop and, back after an absence from the CBD, the Little Bookroom. And then there’s Big W and Target, which weren’t the dominant book retailers back in 1998 that they are now.

Overall, however, there are now just 53 outlets selling books in the CBD – about 30% less than in 1998, as this map below indicates. Just as remarkable is the drop in the number of general bookshops, as opposed to specialist ones. There were around 25 generalist booksellers in the CBD back in 1998. Now? About 10. Not pretty reading if you’re a book publisher, author, or reader living in this UNESCO City of Literature.

Have I missed out anyone? Let me know if I have. Feel free to add your own analysis.

UPDATE. Thanks to Andrew Wrathall from Thorpe-Bowker, I’ve added another 8 shops to the 2011 map, bringing the total to 53. Hence, the percentage has moved from a 40% drop in the number of stores in the CBD between 1998 and 2011 to a 30% drop. Still a significant drop, but I was pleased to find some more outlets to add to the map.