Reading habits change

The reading habits of Castlemaine residents may have changed a tad during lockdown it seems.
Joyce Sanders of Castlemaine’s Soldier & Scholar secondhand bookshop has managed to keep her popular little Barker Street business going throughout the pandemic crisis, gaining some interesting insights into readers’ literary tastes in lockdown.
With her atmospheric little shop forced to close to in-store browsing, Joyce has been able to keep going by relying more heavily on her online sales traffic, but has also innovated around sales and service delivery.
Customers have been invited to browse titles online, lodge enquiries via email and order titles by phone – and then collect them, cleaned and waiting, by knocking on the bookshop door in person or even arranging to have them delivered to their car door on arrival.
“I’m lucky in that I already had the online thing going,” Joyce says.
“In the second week of lockdown my online business went up about five times.
“People overseas are looking at more rare books so that was very lucky.”
Closer to home, she says, literary comfort material has been in demand.
“People are reading comfort materials,” says Joyce, naming James Herriot titles as an example of what’s been specifically sought.
And enforced family togetherness also seems to have had an influence.
“I’ve had people looking for childhood classics like Treasure Island – childhood classics and good books to share with kids.”
Crime – as always – has continued to sell strongly in lockdown, the long-time book retailer says.
“Crime is good because they want to sit back and not think too much about the virus – so it’s something to take their mind off it.”
Conversely, demand for literature concerning plague and war appears to have declined.
“They don’t want to read about plague and war, nothing about contagious diseases,” Joyce says, although she notes that the copy of Gabriel García Márquez’ Love in the Time of Cholera that was sitting on her shelves has been snapped up in recent days.
Joyce observes that some positives include the transferal of writers’ festival speakers’ programs, to online access.
She names the Yarra Valley Writers Festival as one example she personally enjoyed catching online in recent days – “I wouldn’t have had the opportunity otherwise,” she says.
“I’m busy. The online sales for me are very much like the stories of the cafes.
“They’re all doing takeaways but not making as much as they were (with dine-in customers).
“While my online sales have increased it’s not as great as having customers visit the shop.”

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