Tim’s Bookshop Melbourne for sale after 35 years
The much-loved institution was not the victim of an e-book takeover or wider apathy towards reading books, according to Tim, 60.
Instead, “35 years is a long time”, “running your own business is pretty full on” and the time has come to focus on personal interests – like The Hard Covers, the covers band that Tim spearheads with vocals and rhythm guitar.
“There’s a lot of home maintenance I’ve been putting off too,” he says – though one suspects it will also be a chance to add to his tally of two books a week since he could read (well over 5000 titles now).
Although Tim says the closure isn’t due to poor sales bookshop numbers in Melbourne are dwindling, despite it being a UNESCO “city of literature”.
Saturday marks the final day of Embiggen Books, in Melbourne’s CBD, after it opened in 2011, Hyland’s Bookshop, on Bourke Street, announced its closure earlier this month, and Books in Print, in Malvern, closed last June after 28 years.
Last week, Pages & Pages, one of Australia’s leading independent booksellers, announced it would be closing in Sydney.
Tim and Lynn also operated other Tim’s outlets around Melbourne after opening the main Kew store in 1984. The largest and last of those, in Canterbury, just east of Kew, was sold off in January, largely due to ballooning retail rental costs.
Tim speaks proudly of Melbourne as Australia’s book capital – last year, Melbourne had 33.3 book stores per 100,000 people, compared with 5.3 stores per 100,000 people in Sydney – but acknowledges that reading habits have changed.
“The onslaught of kindles and e-readers was a bit overhyped, I think. That hasn’t been much of an impact for us, people bought them then got a bit sick of them,” he said.
“[But] in the old days I’d get on a tram and everyone would be reading a book, and if not a book then a newspaper. Now you get on a tram and there’s one guy who’s a hipster that’s reading a book, and everyone else is on their phone.
“How people spend their spare time has completely changed. Everyone has to eat but nobody has to read. It’s just one of those things.”
Apart from an unsuccessful dip into selling CDs – “I got on board at completely the wrong time” – Tim’s Bookshop has largely kept true, employing about 100 people over the 35 years who quickly became like family.
As for the future of the store, it’s out of his control, but Tim is hopeful it will remain a bookshop.
“It would be great for somebody who already has a book shop and wants to add it to their chain. The agent and owner are supportive of someone coming in and continuing the business, so we’ll have to see what happens.”
Having dreamed up the idea of Tim’s Bookshop by collecting obscure secondhand books from local markets and sold them for profit in the early 1980s, Tim says he feels “lucky to have had the same job for so long”.
“It’s been a good job for me. You get to come home with a clean conscience and clean hands, and meet some interesting people along the way.”
Michael is a reporter for The Age.