There is not much space in the Paperback Bookshop, but enough to come close to books and stories and other book lovers. Let’s hide here, in the maze of paperback books, and leave the bustle of the city centre outside.
Interview with Rosy Morton, owner of Paperback Books.
Which three books of Melbourne would you recommend to a person visiting the city?
Sophie Cunningham’s book just called Melbourne is a good start. Sophie is a writer and publisher and it’s a personal look at the city she lives in and loves, particularly the inner city area around Fitzroy.
Place for a Village by Gary Presland reconstructs Melbourne at the time of European settlement and looks at the way that the city was shaped by the natural landscape: the flora, fauna and geography. Presland also wrote Aboriginal Melbourne which also well worth reading for an insight into the culture and history of the Kulin Nations, the indigenous peoples of Melbourne.
Peter Bakowski is a Melbourne poet whose poetry is imbued with something very characteristic of Melbourne though he’s travelled far and wide. His latest collection is called Personal Weather. Peter also works across the road at a music shop so he’s very familiar to our neighbourhood.
Please tell me a bit about the literary scene in your neighbourhood.
There’s our shop and The Hill of Content bookshop which has also been there for years. I’m not sure that amounts to a literary scene but it’s good to have a couple of longstanding bookshops in the same block. The Wheeler Centre which is close by at the State Library has events with local and international authors every evening so that makes for a lively literary scene in the neighbourhood.
What’s the story of the bookshop?
I think the city was pretty quiet back then, especially in the evenings but next door there’s always been an old style Italian cafe called Pelligrini’s that was open late so the Paperback became a place to hang out in the city when not much was going on. The original owner bought books in from the US that weren’t easily available at the time, paperback editions of books by the Beats and a few books that were banned in Australia back then so the shop got a bit of a reputation for stocking non-mainstream books. Lots has changed in city since then and in publishing but something of that early flavour of the shop has stayed the same.
What are the challenges nowadays in Australia to run a bookshop – and which ideas make Paperback Bookshop unique and special?
The challenges have been particularly interesting in the last 2 or 3 years but the future of bookshops, particularly independant ones seems a bit more hopeful this year and it’s lovely to see people of all ages enjoying being in a bookshop and being glad of books that aren’t electronic. I think bookshops will survive! Having said that online sales are a major challenge, and ebooks are eating into the print book market. We can’t compete with the prices that are available online but we can try and be a place that’s nice to come to, to browse in and be a bit more personal than a website. The Paperback probably hasn’t changed a lot over the years, there’s more books, probably too many, but we still try and find both classics and new and interesting books that might not be available in the bigger shops. There’s an ongoing conversation between us and our customers about what’s being read, reviewed, what we love and sometimes what we don’t love. All of this adds to the collection of books we have on the shelves.
Another challenge is the relationship between publishers and bookshops which has changed considerably in the time that I’ve been in the industry and how that develops may well affect the viability of independent bookshops.
Can you recommend a few of your favourite place near your bookshop?
It’s quite a nice neighbourhood, quiet compared to the shopping end of town so it’s probably good to have a wander around the streets and laneways. There’s plenty of cafes but Pelligrini’s is worth a visit as is the Melbourne Wine Bar on Spring Street. The Fitzroy Gardens are close by too and very beautiful.
Open since the late sixties.
Owned since the late 90’s by Rosy Morton.
60 Bourke Street, 3000 Melbourne, Australia.
Opening hours: Monday – Tuesday 9.30 – 22, Friday 9.30 – 22.30, Saturday 11 – 22.30, Sunday noon – 19