the blessing of home and worries about books and other such stuff

Oh isn’t it a good thing that after a day at work we get to come home.  I love my home … it is so very peaceful yet enriching.  I poured us sparkling water with lime juice and mint.  We moved the chairs into the shade … even at 6pm, the sun was still high and strong.  Mum read to us from an hysterical new book.  Abby and Hannah looked through other new volumes on cheese making, bag making and Christmas stickers.  The dogs (Lucy – Mum’s dog and Simon’s sister – is staying too) gnawed their bones.  And I stitched. Remember last night when I said I had been just keeping up with the Advent tree ornaments.  Today I ran out so there was stitching to do.  What a pity huh!  Lovely stitching in the evening garden with refreshing drinks, an outrageous book, and lots and lots of giggling.

mum-reading-aloud

table

tanlge-of-threads

the-new-look

awesomely-fun

stitching

It’s a good thing :-)  Working in the bookstore has been very enlightening.  Now, here we are, members of a thriving online community so what I’m about to say may seem a bit contradictory.  But the last year has shown me that as a society, our increasing leaning towards living – and here I mean mostly shopping – “online” is having community altering repercussions.   Businesses all around us are closing their doors.  Small, local businesses who have supported multiple families for generations.  Whilst there has been online shopping for over a decade now, it is only in the last 18 months that the effects are really hitting home.   In our bookstore, we are confronted everyday with customers telling us cockily – and yes, I really mean cockily – that they don’t have to buy the book from us – a local family run bookstore, they can buy it from online, overseas bookstores for much less.  Yep, they can.  They don’t have to buy the book from us, they can buy it from the huge supermarkets for much less.  Yep, that’s right.   They seek our advice, let me spend half an hour reading to them from books, showing them a selection of titles, helping them chose books that are appropriate for the age and interests of their children, their grandchildren, their friends, their parents.  And then they use their iphones to photograph our price sticker on the back that records the isbn, the title and the author, or write it down in their notebooks, thank us for our help and leave.  Sometimes, they will even admit to us that they are buying it online or at the big supermarket.  But most often this kind of customer will just slink off.

For a long time, I would just keep smiling and raise my eyebrows when confronted with these words and behaviour.  No more.  Now when they tell me that Kmart or Target have it for $4 less, I tell them that supermarkets make their money from cheap, industrialised food and sweat shop underwear and tshirts.   They don’t need to make money on books.  But they also don’t carry the specialised titles we have.  And when we are put out of business, the supermarkets won’t change their modus operandi.  They will continue selling the big blockbusters and everything else will be oh so much harder to find.

And when the customer buys a book written by an Australian writer and published by an Australian publisher from the UK or US for $40 less than we can buy it from the distributor (I’m not joking), yep they’re getting it cheaper.  But now I tell them, when we close our doors, there will be no one to ring and say “I was listening to the radio last night and heard a really interesting chap interviewed about his new book” or come in and ask “My friend told me about this wonderful parenting book .. I think it’s red”  Nor will there be part time jobs for their children and grandchildren whilst they’re at school or university.  Or anywhere for them to sit in a cosy armchair, listening to lovely music whilst they browse our cookbooks and write out the recipes they want to cook that week.  Or a warm and safe place for their children to lay after school, in the children’s section, finding Wally, or giggling over Ripley’s Believe It or Not or reading the beginning of the next book in the series before talking mum into buying it.

Nope.  This increasing obsession with getting everything as cheaply as possible is not only bad for the environment and ultimately a false economy, but it’s becoming really nasty for so many of the families in our community.  And it’s not just bookstores.  It’s fabric and craft stores (the owner of a very popular local patchwork store was almost in tears the other day, sharing her morning of customers who treat her like a public library), homewares stores, baby wares stores, small clothing stores … and they’re just the ones around me who are closing their doors.

I have certainly bought my share of goodies online.  And without a doubt, I know I will in the future.  Sometimes there are books or artworks or fabrics or patterns that just cannot be bought locally.  But I know that this year has taught me, that even though there is a HUGE lolly shop out there, just waiting for me to spend my dollars, I don’t always need to buy what I crave at that moment.  And more importantly, I need to think about where I am placing my hard earned dollars.  Living in a friendly community, where I can walk up the street or catch a tram to my local store, smile and greet the shopkeepers, chat with them about our days and needs, seek their advice, learn from them – provide them with a chance to make a living – is more important than saving $4 or $40.

There you go :-)  I’m climbing down from my soapbox now.  I don’t mean to hector, it’s just that some days, I wonder where this will all end.  I know that economic wisdom declares that when one area of the “economy” disappears, another takes it place.  But frankly, I don’t believe this to be true.  And even more so, I don’t want to live in an economy.  I want to live, with my family, in a community.  What are your thoughts on this?

p.s. as for the customer who told me yesterday that I wouldn’t be able to sleep at 2 am in the morning because I would be frantically trying to think of the book title she was amazed I couldn’t conjure up on demand … I slept like a baby :-)

p.p.s  I have never made any money from the Amazon booklist down the side of the blog.  I keep it there so as to share pictures of the books we are reading and loving.  If you know of a non-commercial way of doing this, please let me know :-)

18 thoughts on “the blessing of home and worries about books and other such stuff

  1. Oh, yes, the online shopping thing….I admit I am guilty, but I also wholeheartly agree with everything you say. Photographing the stickers – now that shocks me!!! Anyway…

    I love the HAIR!! My 12 year old just cut her’s very much the same way and I LOVE it on her. Thankfully, she loves it, too. I must get a picture of her up on my blog. They look like sweet little pixies!!

  2. Oh – your pps…I have that too. Never made any money, but I do enjoy having the photos of the books there as well. I will stay tuned in case someone gives you a better idea.

  3. You go girl! That soapbox needed to be stepped upon. Sadly, my community has been overrun by chains, and we have no local bookstore. :( We do have a local art store I try to support and some decent local fabric stores. But I’ll bet they are feeling the squeeze.
    That pps on the amazon list made me giggle, I have one too that I forgot I have because it also has brought me no $, but who cares. It’s just fun to share books!

  4. p.s. Going over your post again, I realize that we have the short end of the holiday stick here in the Northern Hemisphere. You get all of those wonderful extra daylight hours to getyour craft on for the holidays and all that su to keep your spirits bright. I feel like I want to crawl in a cave and sleep for three months this time of year so the making and baking is such a bear. That’s it. I am moving south.

  5. yes, I agree with everything you said. And yes I buy online, usually stuff I would have to order in, here in ballarat.But I try to keep a balance.
    The other day I went into a gorgeous vintage button shop in castlemaine(my other home, but that’s another story), looking for four simple little buttons. Well those buttons took two ladies half an hour to find. In that time I got to hold a new born baby, touch a european vintage girls dress, had two big belly laughs, one about men, I forget the other. And I learn’t how rare little button’s (which I was after) are hard to find. And I kepted smiling all day.
    Some things are hard to replace, and everything has it’s time…..

  6. nicole says:

    I agree with you, wholeheartedly. BUT: For me personally $4 are already a big deal. $40 is a bit less than what I have available to spend on groceries for the week, for me and my two kids.

    I work as a cleaning lady in a local chain supermarket for 325€ a month. The chain store is blood sucking evil, but it’s the only job I could actually find because of the limited hours I have available to work when my youngest is in kinder and my oldest is at school.

    I’m in germany and we have what’s called Buchpreisbindung, that means book prices are fixed. No matter where I buy a german book it will cost the same. I do however buy cheap english novels at amazon because I can’t afford them in the shops as the price will easily be double. And sorry, it’s just not in the budget.

    I do think this is a snake biting its own tail. We work for minimum wages, we’re unable to afford the higher prices of “healthy” alternatives (be that books or fruit or meat or fabric from local shops), so we shop at the big chains, who in turn only employ people on minimum wage basis, therefore more and more of us will have limited incomes,….
    The way to break free? I have no idea.

  7. This is sooooo true. One of my best friends just lost her job at a local mom and pop bookstore. She had been working there since she was 15(back in the days when dino’s roamed the earth hehehe).
    It broke my heart when they closed their doors. Like your little shop it was a local place where we all knew one another and I will miss the companionship and the easy way that we were all able to sit and discuss (argue???) with one another the best and worts of most anything literary. This is not possible at even the larger bookstores and definately not so much fun to “chat” with others on-line (one misses the subtle nuances of body language that accompany face to face “discussion”).

    Just my little rant
    Tina in Central New York USA

  8. You preach is sister! Our small town has become a deserted wasteland since WalMart came in. It knocked out many many small businesses down Main St. as well as the KMart (local competition big store). I can’t stand WalMart, so I drive the 20 miles to my hometown where they are still thriving with small businesses. It’s so sad, really…

  9. We have a new book store. I wish it were closer so that I could walk there in the evening on my own or with the kids in tow during the day. I was stoked at the selection and snuck back after the children were safely in the car. I even managed to find Harry the Dirty Dog (1950′s classic, much fun). I’d love to have the money to spend on lots of books. I really want for this one to sty around. However, my library generally gets more out of me for reserves and fines fees than my local book store.

  10. Jessica says:

    A good alternative to the amazon book list is available from Good Reads (www.goodreads.com).
    In your account, go to widgets and you can create montages of different groups of books etc.

    As a plus, it is a great site for book recommendations and reviews, as well as to see what your friends are reading/have read:)

    :)

  11. anne from finland says:

    Hi Lily, Greetings from -22 C degrees! Hrr! I love bookstores so much! I just can´t pass any of them. As well I love fabric shops and all kind of craft shops. It is always such a pleasure to talk with people, to get new ideas and to get good service. There are so many really nice shops where I will always return… Have a wonderful time! Mrs. Santa here is very, very busy…

  12. Christine Cohrs says:

    While I agree with some, I do have issues with others.
    Our books in Australia are too expensive, but I think that is due to some import laws, read something somewhere.
    When it comes to fabric, we have problems here again, in the US shops can purchase direct from the companies i.e. Moda and so on, here however the shops have to purchase from a wholesaler first so that means higher prices and I don’t think it is right, there should be a choice.
    I do love to shop in real shops and always will, but there are some things that make me wild.
    Hope you all have a great Christmas.

  13. yes your right christine, I’m in the process of opening a fabric shop, and what i would pay wholesale for fabrics in australia, is the same price people can buy from overseas. Hence I will be stocking only fabric that I can buy direct from the wholesaler.

  14. Michelle from Florida says:

    I have to agree with Nicole in Germany above – Low wages make economy purchases a necessity. My son (lucky me!) works for a yarn manufacturer, and I get some of my yarn thru him at wholesale. The owner is a client of my husband’s (he’s a hairstylist), and even though they barter the costs away, it still takes three haircuts to equal eight skeins of lovely merino wool yarn, about US$100. The costs charged by locally-owned shops is prohibitive, forcing one to purchase at Joann’s or Michael’s or other big-box fabric/craft stores. I don’t have an answer, but clearly understand the problem.

  15. Thank you for this post. I am really concerned about the long term effect on all sorts of businesses. We will wake up one morning and chain stores will be all we have. We need to support our farmers and family run businesses before they are all gone. If everyone thinks the chain stores will keep low prices when all the independants have closed, have another long hard think.

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