The Best Bookshop in the World just got a bit better. Yes, it is possible, the iconic Readings Bookshop in Carlton has reopened to reveal wall-to-wall luxury and most importantly, more bookshelves!
After closing its doors in May, and commissioning local architects Nest to do the refurbishment, revealed last month, it is nothing short of breathtaking – terrazzo floors, velvet covered window seats, large arched windows and walnut bookshelves.
A social hub at the centre of the local literary scene, Readings has long held an important place in the Australian literary landscape and many book lovers will have fond memories of the original Readings Carlton store established in 1969. Moves in 1993 and 1998 meant more space and more bookshelves to browse. The shop may have changed over the years, but its appeal to the many regulars and tourists who seek it out on their travels, has never wavered.
And the awards they have racked up along the way are testament to this – Bookstore of the Year Award at the 2016 London Book Fair International Excellence Awards, and the Independent Book Retailer of the Year at the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Australian Book Industry Awards.
This exciting transformation begins another chapter in the Readings story and on Love Your Bookshop Day, Better Reading spoke to Joe Rubbo, the manager of Readings Carlton about the transformation of an icon.
With Readings long history in the area and many fans, it must have been daunting coming up with a brief to give the architects. What was it that you hoped to achieve with the redesign?
The whole project was a bit daunting as we have such a strong customer base and many people were very attached to the old store. The last thing we wanted to do was alienate our customers, so we wanted a store that was far more functional but not radically different. I think the architects did a great job delivering that, and so far, the response from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive.
How does this new space change things for Readings?
We have removed many of the bottle necks, so the store flows a lot better. We moved our music and DVDs section towards the back of the store, which meant we could open things up through the middle and now the store feels much more open. While we have a similar stock holding to what we had, we have much better display space – especially for our large format and illustrated books. Events are also a big part of Readings Carlton and we’re able to run these much more effectively.
Despite the many challenges the book industry has faced, books are still booming. At its heart, what do you think a bookshop should provide for its clients?
A good and successful bookshop should reflect its community. It should be somewhere familiar and comfortable, but also somewhere of discovery. Australia, and Melbourne in particular, has such a vibrant group of publishers and authors and a bookstore like ours needs to be the gateway. We do that not just in our stores, but through our Readings Monthly, social media, podcast and prizes. We also have staff that love books and reading – if you have that then everything else will fall into place.
If you’re a local, then Readings have a number of plans for Love Your Bookshop Day that you can take part in. Anyone who buys a book from a Readings shops on Love Your Bookshop Day can go into the draw to win a Book of the Month subscription (a free copy of either our fiction, non-fiction or children’s Book of the Month, every month for 12 months, starting from September 2018). To enter, customers need to fill out our competition form at the counter and tell us in 25 words or less why they love Readings.
The first 50 people to buy a book at our Readings Kids shop on Lygon Street will also receive a free Love Your Bookshop Day tote bag. And we’re hosting an event Australian singer, musician and lead singer of The Seekers, Judith Durham, at our Hawthorn shop at 2.30pm. To find out more, visit our website here (https://www.readings.com.au/news/love-your-bookshop-day).