This month’s Bookshop of the Month is Readings Carlton – a Melbourne icon that has long been a gathering point for the Australian literary scene. It was most recently named the Australian Book Industry (ABIA) Retailer of the Year 2020. We spoke to Rosalind McClintock, the shop’s Marketing Manager, about its rich history and dauntless commitment to books and literacy.
1. Could you give us a brief ‘about us’ history of Readings?
Founded in 1969 by Peter Reed, Dot and Ross Reading, Readings has been a cornerstone of the Australian literary landscape for over 50 years. Current managing director, Mark Rubbo bought the store in 1976 and has worked tirelessly to keep Readings independent, relevant, exciting and at the centre of the local literary scene. Now, we have 50 people working at Readings Carlton, with a number of employees who have been with us for more than 20 years!
2. What is the best selling area in the shop? How has this changed over the years?
Our Australian Literature section is incredibly popular, and we have doubled its shelve space over the last five years. One of our main focusses is to promote Australian literature and emerging Australian writers. In fact we run three prizes dedicated to recognising exciting and exceptional new contributions to local literature, where first and second published works in the category are eligible. So, we are really pleased that this focus seems to be translating to books in hands, and hopefully minds!
3. Given the restrictions we’re all experiencing during this pandemic, how has the bookshop fared?
Actually, we have fared pretty well, though it wasn’t easy work and we had to adjust our processes and adapt. We transformed ourselves from a principally bricks and mortar retailer into an online bookseller. Our team really pulled together and we got through. It is wonderful to have our customers back in the shop and to be able to interact in person again.
4. Can you tell us about the Readings Foundation?
The Readings Foundation was established by Mark Rubbo in 2009, in response to the entrenched unfairness of the haves, and the have-nots. With a strong commitment to books and literacy, it made sense to channel a passion for fairness into supporting literacy programmes that assist the disadvantaged in our community.
Readings pledged to donate 10% of all profits to the Foundation each year, and together with a couple of other generous long-term donors, the Readings Foundation was established. The Readings Foundation today is a bigger entity than Mark could have ever dreamed of. Together with a Workplace Giving Programme (which a number of Readings staff contribute to), and a giftwrapping service that asks for a donation from customers in exchange for a beautifully presented gift, The Readings Foundation has to-date donated over $1.3M to various organisations throughout Victoria.
The focus, at all times, is on changing lives through literacy. The tangible outcomes are there in various good-news stories from the organisations the Foundation supports
5. And finally, you have a favourite book from Yale University Press?
It’s so hard to choose! We love all things Patti Smith, so her book Devotion from the ‘Why I Write’ series is definitely one of our favourites.