Thursday, 7 January 2010

Gone Book-Shoppin'

I spent the last few days on the road to and from Bendigo. Searching for a few bookshops to visit on the trip I found a page on the Bendigo tourism site for the "Book Lovers Trail." Having never heard of this trail I thought I'd give it a go.

For those who love to fossick through the shelves of a book store in search of a hidden gem - the Book Lovers' Trail brochure will be a handy travelling tool. The trail weaves through Central Victoria and highlights ten of the region’s favourite secondhand book shops.

The stores are located in Bendigo, Castlemaine, Campbells Creek, Kyneton, Daylesford, Woodend, Ballarat, Buninyong and Trentham – each offering their own speciality collection and charm.

The brochure wasn't available online so I did a few searches for "Book Lovers Trail" on Google Maps and eventually discovered a map of all of the shops (see here).

At my first stop—Woodend Bookshop—I was told that the trail and/or trail brochure is now defunct, the victim of a few closures and the waning enthusiasm of the organisers. (Apparently, the master of the brochure went west with one of the ex-booksellers!)

Clearly, in order to be successful, this sort of thing requires the sustained input of someone like Paul McShane (Paul—Convenor of BookTown Australia—created the BOOKtrail concept in the Southern Highlands of NSW. He gave a fascinating talk on this subject very recently, on a stormy night at the State Library of Victoria. See here.)

Not to be stopped by a missing brochure I visited: Woodend Bookshop, Woodend, on the way north; Book Now, Bendigo; and Soldier & Scholar, Castlemaine, and Book Heaven, Campbells Creek, on the way south again.

Inexplicably missing from the original brochure was Bendigo Book Mark Two, which—as of xmas '09—is a few doors from Dirt Cheap Books.

The two stand-out bookshops for me were Bendigo Book Mark Two and Book Heaven, Campbells Creek (though both Woodend Bookshop and Book Now, Bendigo, are perfectly respectable shops). Both have large stocks and are well organised.*

And though the evil influence of the internet** is evident from the pricing of some of the more interesting books, enough slip through the net to make it possible for me to buy a handful of books at both shops. The cheapest was Percy (at $3.50) and the most expensive was The Buried Cities of Campania (at $25.00).

*For an account of the Book Lovers' Trail in 2006 see Liz Filleul's All That Glisters, which was published by Australian Traveller on 27 September 2006.

**In 1910, Augustine Birrell wrote: "The enormous increase of booksellers' catalogues and their wide circulation amongst the trade [read "access to the internet"] has already produced a hateful uniformity of prices. Go where you will it is all the same to the odd sixpence. Time was when you could map out the country for yourself with some hopefulness of plunder." Time was indeed.

[UPDATE: 2 July 2016: After all my pictures disappeared (again) I decided to give up on external hosts for large versions (1000px) of my image files and, for now on, will stick with the smaller images (500px), which Blogger is prepared to host.]

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