Thursday, 3 February 2011

Tea in the Library by Annette Freeman

If you are interested in the world of books, libraries and bookshops, you'll find this true story quite fascinating. A Sydney lawyer has a "vision" to set up and operate something she believes would fill many needs - as a forum for ideas, a venue for discussions and author talks, besides selling books and serving delicious food.

In 2003 she finds premises to rent in York Street behind the QVB. Little does she know, in the tough world of retailing, how many pitfalls she will encounter - with council regulations, fitting out shelves and cooktops, sourcing ingredients for the kitchen, staff rivalries, book selection, even leaking ceilings and malfunctioning toilets. She studies stock placement and other marketing ploys.

After 18 months however, and after hanging on in the hope of an upturn, the business must close its doors. Fortunately she hasn't left her job in the legal profession. We share all her triumphs and disasters. The story is very "bookish", full of well-informed references to the book world. You are left wondering, how could she have been so idealistic; did she really believe it could ever be successful, competing with discounted books on-line, and large retailers?

The colour plates of the interior of the shop are unattractive, dark and depressing (more a fault of the camera than the surroundings), but all in all it is a short, well-written book, with lots to hold your interest.


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