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5 February 2012

This isn’t quite a Farside item, it’s more a Farside Really Regrets item. My favourite bookshop has closed. The stock is being sold (I’ve bought my share and possibly more) and then it will be gone. They’ve been an institution for New Zealand readers of SF, mysteries, and romance for many years, they’ve run a Romance Writer’s Award, and attended and sold in the huxter’s room at many SF conventions. I loved being able to ring up and list the books I wanted. In a few weeks they’d be in my mail-box, but it wasn’t like a chain shop – what’s your name again? They knew me, what I liked reading and they’d recommend a new book, “You’ll like this one.” And almost invariably I did. That’s how I started buying at least three series, one in 1999 (I now have over thirty of them,) another in 2003 (eleven of.) And the third in 2009, (two so far and I’ll keep buying.)
I loved being able to visit the shop when I was in Auckland, cruise the laden shelves, stop and gasp, I hadn’t known the new book was out, a quick grab, that one was mine! To come reeling out after two or three hours with several dozen new books and a depleted bank balance. But, to misquote, “I often wonder what bookshop owners’ buy that’s half as precious as the goods they sell?” And bookshop owners that know their stock and genres are pearls beyond price.
Sadly from now on it’s no more catalogues with carefully chosen lists. From now on it’s all impersonal – e-readers, having to trawl through mountains of books displayed in store or on-line to find the books you want to buy, (missing out on new authors because you don’t have time to look and there’s no one to tell you about them) and no friendly shop where you can glance at other shoppers and smile at each other in understanding. It’s no more Barbara’s Books – and we’re a lot the poorer for it.

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