Search Browse On This Day Timeline Research Remembered About Contact
☶ Go up a page

The Womens Bookshop

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes by using Ctrl-F, and you can also play the audio by clicking on a desired timestamp.

[00:00:00] This program is brought to you by pride [00:00:05] Well, I'm Carol, Bo. And I've been writing this book shop now for nearly 25 years, next year will be 25 years. I was a teacher, I had no business experience whatsoever. And people in the business community find that totally amazing. I have been told many times that I was brave, and that I took a risk. And I just laugh. I was not brave, and I had absolutely no idea I was taking a risk. Because I knew so little about business, I didn't know that there are statistics that demonstrate that something like the first sued, a third of all, new small businesses fail in the first three years, possibly more than food these days, I would think I had no understanding of any of it. I do think I had all sorts of skills that I wouldn't have recognized or put labels on. But I was a mother. And I had a disabled child. So I had been caring for a disabled child as well as an intellectually disabled child as well as a gorgeous normal daughter. And they're still very much in my life. But also, I was a Sunday school teacher of English and drama, and I was used to box I knew about books. But I was also a drama teacher, which taught I guess, [00:01:19] quite a lot of [00:01:22] impromptu stuff in a way you take a risk, you take risks when you're a drama teacher, but I wouldn't maybe have recognized that or related that to business. But I was used to organizing teenagers, large, large groups of teenagers in those days, they trained it was seven periods in a day, you trained seven times a day, you rotated these vast groups of sometimes more than 30 teenagers. That takes a lot of skill. Well, I think teachers getting no credit for so and I had good interpersonal skills and so on, and good communication skills, and I would never have labeled those are, you know, and I suspect they seemed people on business courses to learn those skills these days, was persuaded to to start the bookshop by a friend called Pat rosier, who was the editor of broadsheet magazine. And budget magazine had a premise into onion road with a little shop front. And they actually needed an office space, they didn't have enough money to buy any books to heaven, this tiny bookshop in the front. So, Petra said to me, what we need is someone to take over this premise and run it as a proper women's bookshop. And we'll get an office space somewhere else and she kept on at me hit on it me and other friend came with me a Frankel CRISPR clay and actually came with me to the bank, and she knew what a cash flow forecast was, I didn't have a clue and couldn't produce one. But we talked to the bank manager about getting a loan and that sort of thing. And by the time I also then traveled around the country, but and got to meet some of the women doing the same thing, and they're not doing it anymore. There was the Kate Shepherd women's book club, and Christchurch was still there. And a woman's place in Wellington was Leah. And some wonderful is the women like Pleasance, Hanson and had been involved in it and Telly Lloyd, I think from unity box and Wellington had been involved in it at one stage. There were also wonderful women in the publishing industry. And they still are, I mean, the two current indies of Random House New Zealand and Penguin Books are both women conference and Margaret Thompson. I went, you know, those days taught conference, she was at that stage, the marketing manager at Penguin Books, she gave me huge expertise, Helen Benton was working with her partner, Bob Ross. They were running Benton Ross It was called the and they became tandem priests later. So there are lots of women with huge experience both on the publishing and the book selling side of the industry, and they share their knowledge with me. And I became convinced I could have a go at it. I mean, Helen beaten literally held my hand and took me around the warehouse and said, You need one of the three of it and so on helped me choose the opening stock. But I also had to see it so I can go back to teaching. If If I had to, I could always earn my living as a teacher. So that removed another element of risk Really? [00:04:07] What was it like getting finance for such a specific workshop? [00:04:14] When I didn't actually get very much I scrimped and saved and a very kind woman who has to remain anonymous, because she doesn't even want me to disclose linked me 10 1012, maybe $12,000 I think it was and I paid her back amazingly rapidly. The bank gave me probably 20,000, I think, and I think they match 20,000 because I'd cobbled together with the 12 from streamed and various money, I'd called either 20,000. And it was $40,000, which is a joke these days. And I do remember, Tony fescue was in the managing director of Harper Collins say to me how on earth he going to buy any stock with such a little amount of money, he was astonished. So I had very little stock to start with. And I still remember the shock of the next day after the opening night, looking around my shoulders and thinking, I've sold so many things I'm gonna have to reorder, I'm gonna have to pay for what I've sold and reorder some more. So I was very great when I started off and it just developed slowly. And I learned by doing that one other important phenom is to support of women that has enabled me to do it one other important favor. My very, one of my two closest friends, Glen Lauren, was at that stage a teacher and she had time off on full salary to do fit study physics at University. She was a science, teacher chemistry and biology but she needed to upscale on her on her physics area. And she was giving the physics department of Open University bit of a shake up at the time, I think. But she had no lectures, no teaching or anything on a Friday. So she worked because I was on my own that whole first year, she worked for me for free every Friday for the whole first year and when the bookshop was in Dominion road. So I know I had a normal support and help from women. [00:06:02] What is specifically a woman's bookshop? [00:06:04] Well, it grew out of the feminist movement of the 70s. And there were feminist bookshops all around the world, the most famous one of which probably was the one in London. Oh, what's a quarter from England, it's called the one that was in London. It survived for a long time. And then it was taken under the wing of foils, bookshop, and it survived and falls as a sort of corner of falls for a while and then it then it died out. And I'm going to have to come back to you with the name of it, it will, it will leave into my mind, there was another one called sister right in Islam turn that closed years ago. There were a few in Australia, there were a lot in Germany, and there still are women's women's book shops in Germany, and quite a few in the States. Although the or most or many of the independent book shops closed down in the states, including the alternative gay and lesbian ones and the feminist ones. It was an extraordinary in a way of the feminist publishing movement, which arose because women's writing was not getting published was not being taken seriously. That changed gradually over the next, you know, two decades, I guess, you know, through the 80s and 90s, as the big major publishers came to understand that something like 70% of book buyers are women, there are statistics to shut to demonstrate their and that in fact, there was money to be made out of women's books. And so they took over and gradually the feminist pieces disappeared. I mean, the women's press, even in London has now gone well into the 2000s to go but it has gone. Virago was still there. But most of the women's places where there was a press in New Zealand that windy Harris ran called New women's press talk was based on the woman's press in London in a way that was new women's press. And she published a lot of feminist writing by New Zealand women that may mainstream publishers wouldn't publish. So it grew out of that, really, somebody didn't sell the books, the feminist publishers were publishing. And in the, in the well, I didn't open till 1989. But in the 90s, I mean, the tail end of that movement, really in the 90s, we did still have a very strong feminists section, that then in the late 90s, and early 2000s, I think waned, and it's coming back now our feminist section is now expanding. There's a whole new, you know, lot of feminist writing happening out there. So it's interesting. I mean, we did a lot of women's spirituality and witchcraft and godly sins, and that sort of stuff in in that first decade and in Dominion road, because we moved to Ponsonby in what 1990 must have been no, what are we doing 2000 we moved here to here. And that's how I opened in 89. And moved, we were there for basically teen years. So the end of 1980 99. I moved here. So because I'm even now we had the millennia, not long after we'd move to the bumps in the road years. But in that if things changed what became sort of fashionable, and we have a very small women's spirituality section now, a bigger Buddhist section and a big mind a big area of books on mindfulness. So it's interesting how fashions and people's interests change, as the years go by. [00:09:28] Take me back to that opening night of the bookstore. What was that? Like? Oh, it was fun. [00:09:34] We had lots of friends came it was a bit like a party really. But they bought box when I think I didn't quite expect them to buy box. Yeah. I mean, Pat, Rosie, obviously was there. And some of those friends who helped me get sorted and some of the women from publishing and so on, they were all these that was a bit of a party. And, and I'm going to think I opened, you know, six o'clock one night or something. I can't remember the timing now. But I know it was in the evening. And we we had a party, but I was just surprised that people would deliberately I think, to to give me support bought books While they were there. Yeah, what a shock. was actually in business. You know, [00:10:08] I guess one of the big things with book shops that is actually stopping them and enjoying what books are selling. [00:10:17] Well, I've got a really good instrument for it. And I've got good staff now who helped me who has helped me widen the way but [00:10:27] very experienced staff. [00:10:30] I don't know you just know. I mean, we focus particularly on certain areas and obviously gay and lesbian I think my gay section is probably not as good as it should have been. I'm probably a good gay male advisor for that section. There's limited stuff available as good in the Lisbon area. And I'm, I mean, rich, when they come around publishers written always elude me to a book that had gay or lesbian content. There's a lot of, of what I would call mills and boons type, lesbian novels that I order a range of but often only ones and twos, I've got the range, but that men and women buy them because they fun. But we have other big areas like childbirth and parenting. And that excuse me, that becomes fairly obvious I midwives will tell me, which are the good books often and the one or two, I don't stop because midwives don't like them, don't recommend them. They're huge range of really good parenting books. The biggest range apart from literary fiction, the biggest range is the counseling and therapy area. And then I didn't see it out to to stock that at all. That was a thing that evolved over the years. And I've been given advice about how to choose the books from that by the counselors and therapists, it started off I had a personal development section. And so many of the counselors and therapists are women, and they would come in and say, Can you get me this book by so and are great for you in that silence, I was a significant and often mean the writers a significant writer in the in the therapy field and I would start bringing in a box and it just snowballed. It grew and grew. And people gave me more advice, Oh, you got sizer can you get this one as well, and it just grew. So the customers advised me really. And now a lot of male therapists and counselors come in as well, and seems there their clients here as well as they will at the women's bookshop or heaven, or if they haven't got it, they'll be very good at getting it for you. Because we now have a really good reputation for sourcing books and getting special orders for people. So I learned about the therapy section from the from the time the customers and and also the professionals in the field. The cookbook section just grew because they sell. So you learn what sells and you reduce what doesn't sell on you increase, what does sell, we sell a big range of high end cookbooks, beautiful, beautiful, fabulous couples and, and you know, women can't resist them sometimes. So we sell lowest, the literary fiction, which we thought I mean, I have a line where there are writers who are below the line, and I don't stop them. And it's not just me being a snob, they actually don't sell because our customers read the sort of things I read. I read fiction, evidently. And I recommend, and my customers trust what I say about a book. So I put a little little handwritten notes on the books I've read. And I would never say what was good if it wasn't, if I say it's fabulous, and I loved it, then it's true. And other people usually agree with me. We do stock a lot of the high infection by men as well, you know, in McEwen and Sebastian folks, and so on, but predominantly women, so what we're trying to promote is women. And I do that quite deliberately, because I still believe, even though we're now you know, 2013 that there are the basic cultural assumptions out there that are very underlying and, and people often don't recognize it on a conscious level. That means say is more important than what men right is taken more seriously mean one of the reasons that the women's fiction prizes, it's now called it's been the orange prize for more than a decade, and orange, which is a communications company, I'm not sponsoring anymore, so it's just become the women's Fiction Prize. The reason that was set up was because some of the literary women and Russian did a really detailed investigation of the Booker Prize and and they found that it really did favor me and I mean, occasionally a woman one that but really, there's a an elimination process at the very beginning, and that publishers are limited in the number of books, they're allowed to submit for the Booker Prize, and they were submitting them in. So some of the good women didn't even get submitted to start with, with if they did get submitted, they usually didn't win it. And so they save up the orange prize, which became very controversial because at the time, it wasn't worth more, it's still worth 30,000 pounds, which has been donated anonymously. And at that point was worth more than the Booker Prize was was so it was very controversial because men were eligible for it, of course, but that was a deliberate proactive policy to get women's writing recognized. And of course, it's just been announced this year's one and had the biggest shortlist. Not the biggest, the most prestigious shortlist this year [00:15:18] than it's ever had the six finalists were Hilary mantel, you know who's just won the Booker Prize, Barbara Kingsolver, Kate Atkinson, and a couple of others not so well known. But I am Holmes, an American writer, who I feel I haven't done justice to. And I'm going to go back and read some of her backlist, because I love the one that one it's called, may we be forgiven as the most incredible black set are about American society. It's hilarious, but very dark and brilliant. I loved it. And I was thrilled that one and that it's actually beef and all those big names like you know Kingsolver, and Atkinson, and Henry mental. So if it really does heavy feature promotion, women's writing, because it's very prestigious. Now it has the same sort of almost as highest status is the Booker. [00:16:09] I'm going off and all sorts of tangent. [00:16:12] Talk to me about the spice, and I'm wondering of the things that you do in this space, that make it woman space? [00:16:23] Well, I don't know whether I can quite identify it. But [00:16:27] because it's a very small space living and again, we sort of my staff, my role arises that oh, we need a bigger shop, we haven't got enough room. But one of the effects of having a small space is that it is crammed full and interesting and inviting. And enticing. Really. We sometimes feel we can't display things in a well enough because there just isn't enough space to have enough things face out there often spine out and so on. But people do say it's a lovely space and that it feels life. Now I don't quite know how we achieve that. One of my old drama colleagues from the drama teaching days said, while you're a drama teacher in your bookshop, really you you create the space and you invite the participants in. I don't know what it is about it, but people do love it they and and the feminists call the women's bookshop is interesting. I mean, in some ways. In this day and age, it's an anachronism. And I in some ways, I'd love to call it the people's bookshop, because men are welcome and lots of income. But I could never do that, because there's this huge following of women for whom it is the women's bookshop. And the fact that it is labeled the women's bookshop makes it a safe space, because there are very few places on the face of the US that men have to sort of maybe hesitate before they come in. And most men don't. But occasionally a man will stand at the door and say quite seriously and respectfully. Is it okay, if I come in? And I say thank you for asking, you're most welcome. No, because the world is not accessible to all mean, it's not necessarily to women. And so the fact that it's labeled a women's space does make it a safe space. And a lot of women meet up here, they say I'll meet you at the woman's bookshop. Yeah, and people who come in with problems like women will come here. And they'll just be looking. And they'll start they'll ask us a question or two and sometimes coming to look for a broken relationships, for example, is their first their first step towards dealing with some problem in their life. And so sometimes you find yourself in a listening role and an encouraging role. Well, I wouldn't even go as far as saying a counseling role, because none of us are trained for that. But we've learned to listen to people and, and just guide them sometimes, occasionally, the way a woman will come in and wander around the shop and gradually make her way towards the lesbian section. And to actually stand in front of the Lisbon section takes quite a lot of courage. So I often will wander over and just quietly in a very unobtrusive way identify and make it known to who without being too obvious that you know, I believe in and it's okay to be here and to be standing here, you know. [00:19:13] So, yeah, women do feel safe here. [00:19:17] I don't quite know how we've managed that, really. But we certainly have [00:19:22] to clean out some of the kind of community aspects of the bookstore. [00:19:27] Well, we do we sell heaps of tickets, and at times that drives us totally crazy, particularly at the time of, of hero or soft hero anymore. It was a cool this year pride pride festival pride festival. Because we ended up with so many tickets that got got slightly out of hand really, but but we do that as a free community service, we don't take a cut on the tickets, we just do it. You know, Suzie rock runs or runs a women's dance out and we still can several times a year we always sell the tickets for her dance because women I don't know out there who live more central and want to go to the dance can just pop in and buy the tickets here. We sell tickets for the lesbian ball every year. We sell tickets for some gay male events. Certainly in the all the all the girls concerts, for example, we sell tickets for that the only complication with it is people have to pay us cash because we can actually put it through our through our if pasta and system and so on because then it goes into our bank account. We get into GST issues and all sorts of things. So we just say we'll do it for cash and the person we're doing for his to come regularly and take the cash away, which they do. It just kind of bit confusing was during the pride for it, because we had so many triggers as I know which ones there but Oh, right. And it was sort of taking up our time when we should have really been selling books to customers. But yeah, but I'm happy to do it. I mean, we're a public space that game is being people who come into and, and buy tickets. So let's I will continue to do that. What [00:20:57] What impact does something like the brightest all have on on yourselves here [00:21:01] are none really, I mean, very little. [00:21:05] I do always take a bookstore to the big day out. And I do actually sell quite a few books in the park boys thing. It's so funny selling books on the part but but it's worth going more than covers our costs. People are coming to buy tickets buy tickets and leaving in they don't they don't buy books where they have some of them might occasionally but it doesn't have a huge impact at all. It was mainly a community service. And I think it's a good thing that I can do. I mean, I believe very strongly in running an ethical business. And I think that what what you do comes back to you in all sorts of different ways. So I mean, that was one of the questions you talked about earlier was the volunteers. I mean, we have a lot of women who volunteer to help us. [00:21:50] And that's part of that whole community thing as well. [00:21:55] We don't do the newsletters as often we used to do a book choice newsletter, a regular basis got so expensive, and postage is so expensive, that we're doing far more e newsletters now which don't require volunteers to help us but over the years, we've had dozens of women who come away. I serve pizza at sort of seven o'clock and Johnny's wonderful pizza Romeo buco and and then we have a glass of wine and we move the move the shelves back in the middle and sit dictators out, and we'll have a dozen women all sitting around with a glass of wine, all stuffing newsletters into antelopes, then when we all get hungry, I go and get pizza, then we'll stop and have pizza, the conversation is good. And the job is boring, but it gets done. And they're very happy to do it. [00:22:34] You mentioned just before about being an ethical retailer, what does it mean to you? [00:22:41] I'm being fair, I guess, and not ever ever doing any business practices. That might be the slightest, but SAS at all? [00:22:52] Oh, that's hot. Yeah. [00:22:58] I guess I just try and live an ethical life and, and, and run an ethical business. And it's hard to explain what I mean by that really. Like, for for example, we're all we try to all be equal with the staff. But obviously, I'm the boss. And in the end, it's, it's my money and so on. But, but we consult with each other we make we make group decisions. Very tiny. You know, there's the most that will be three people involved in making a decision. But the staff are totally involved in the operating of the shop. And I would always totally trust them to make good decisions and you know, do the right thing about battle arrange things in the shop. And now. Yeah, I do the buying, but are often asked advice from them. I'll consult, particularly with children and teenage boys, I'll say to Tanya, oh, you hear this all the time, we should have this or not, and she'll get involved in the in the buying of things when rips come. So it's a sharing. It's a trying to have everyone have a you know, similar sort of status as far as you can. I mean, ultimately, I'm still the boss, I guess. But and and that was for the volunteers as well. I mean, there must be very few businesses where volunteers come in and help us the I mean, we don't do the Newseum anymore. As I say we do a very occasional news is now but women still help us run magazine. So we've got two big events coming up later in the year that we used to do one every year, we now do two because they're so popular, called ladies literati, the afternoon tease with, with whole New Zealand women writers, I'll maybe tell you more about that when I finish this point, we had to run that to serve afternoon tea to 300 people and run the whole event where the big bookstore out the front end. And often on a large number of authors a dozen or more authors that are signing table and in the interval and so on, you need a team of people. And so I had this large team of 10 or a dozen women who will come and just work for me for the whole day a whole Sunday as volunteers and also let's give them a voucher or something to thank them but they do it because they love it and and I couldn't do a lot of the activities I do without the sort of team of women around me who who are just a fantastic support person support group and they do it because they love it. And they obviously get something out of it too. But but it's to do with sharing and being fair and involving people. And yeah, so I guess that's what I mean by ethical. There's a bit more about the ladies literati is they I mean, it was one of our part time staff Sarah Moore, who came up with a title we were just dreaming up this event. And she said, it's a Sunday afternoon, afternoon TO historical and literati, so became a ladies literary hyphen TA, which is a delightful title. And it is so popular. As soon as word goes out, that Tickets are on sale sells out. We run them now at the right freedmen Art Center, if some girls and that seniors seats about not quite 300 it's actually somewhere over 250. But with all the volunteers and the writers and it runs around about 300 women at the event. So we serve, we have about a dozen writers and they all the first half of the half a dozen also up on stage and I chair it by each get about 20 minutes. And then we stop and I try and get a real mic. So we have fiction, poetry, nonfiction cooking a whole range of things, depending the criteria is you've got to have had a new book published that year. And I mean, they keep coming. There's so many new books being published by New Zealand women that are wonderful. I have to select and drop people out. I can't fit everyone and it's exciting. It's a problem, but it's a good problem to have. And so we lined them up the first half, and then we stop halfway through the afternoon. And we have this magnificent afternoon TCJ out in a big room, it's actually been rehearsal rooms and Girls Next Door, I mean, all these lovely table sit out with my nice cloths and three tiered cakes, dads and so on and the most amazing traditional afternoon tea, things that grandma would have made, you know, lemon tons and Minish tarts, and melting moments and all those those things. And then when we finished that we go back into the theater and have the other half of the world. And it's just fabulous itself that we do to a year now what the first one is the 25th of Sunday afternoon the 25th of August, and then there's another one on the third of November. And they sell out because they're you know, it's a wonderful, exciting range of writers accompanied by fabulous food. [00:27:36] We also do events in the bookshop [00:27:40] and that we are actually doing fewer of those because it's a lot of work and we have to take books off the books basically. And I usually do the food for that. I've got very good at making my famous guacamole we joke with others there's some regulars that come to the book travel needs to come for the guacamole, not the author. [00:28:00] But [00:28:02] you know, a cig trees and and you know, nice topless sort of things. And my injuries and the publishers usually help pay for this. I do fewer of them now but i do when when people ask and and often nominee publishers asked me to include their authors in the ladies authority. And publishers and authors were asked to have the book launch here. So the only one we've done on the shop this year so far is the launch of Elizabeth smothers new poetry book. And she actually asked if she comes from New Plymouth and she asked if she hadn't launched at the woman's bookshop. So she's a wonderful writer I was I was very honored that she asked to hold it here. We're doing another poetry event in July and then other launches throughout the year. And we do have events when there's a new thing out sometimes a new book out and it's very relevant to women but I'm it's a lot of work and i'm doing i'm being a bit more selective, know about which ones I do, I've got to that stage where where I can be selective and not just do everything that everybody wants, because it's so much work I think I'm getting old. Slow down a bit. The other thing we do is table I do really it's usually me who goes as take books out to the to the public. And you cannot I think you cannot and this is you know relates to the whole issue of competition from chain bookstores and from internet booksellers and the whole the whole internet thing that he readers and so on is that you cannot just sit in a bookshop and assume that people are going to come to you a it has to be an active and exciting place to come to which is why we still do the events in the shop. But be we take the books out so I go particularly to counseling and therapy conferences and other conferences but it's the counselors who invite me to come because they know I've got the best range books and I will important book specifically for the conference particularly books written by the keynote speakers. So they're bringing over a very famous international psychotherapist or or particular type of therapist and I will important it's a reasonable financial risk, sometimes their salary return but usually it's too expensive to send books or return books overseas. So I have to gauge right number and import them and into plenty of time for the conference. So I will like this year I've actually had a really hectic year the CN 2013 I went to the need in for clinical psychologist conference and imported a lot of Alan cars box for that because he was the keynote speaker there. Positive Psychology is his one of his key books. And then I went I've been to the psycho therapist conference here in Auckland at the Oreck MRI. I've been to Wellington for the Women's Studies conference. I've been to Napier drove to meet people with a carload of books for the Indian AC conferences, the counselors conference and then in May we of course, had the Auckland Writers Festival. And we're involved in the bookstore for that. So it's been absolutely hectic first half of 2013 it's never usually that busy. It's like we felt like everything came at once. But me taking the box out there and setting up a really extensive bookstore is so worth it, particularly for the professionals. It's worth it enhances the conference, but it's and it's worth it financially for me, but it's it's so good for them, they see a range of box laid flat on tables that made Oh no, do you normally stock this and often I do, but it's been spine out on the shop and you know, they haven't had time to spend looking in the shop. So works with always, how do [00:31:40] you know your readers? so well? How do you pick the right books? [00:31:44] Well, a keynote speaker ones are obvious. But I also I mean, I know that, for example, psychotherapists will be much more targeted, whereas counselors will read more widely and read a whole range of things and will also buy books that that are relevant for the clients, not just from a professional point of view, but also from a client's point of view. Over the years, I don't know how I know, when they advise me, they will often say make sure you bring someone so yeah, make sure you bring Bruce Perry's box because one of the speakers is going to recommend born for love. So I'll make sure I've got enough stock of that make sure you bring counseling and the law and ethics and practice. So they sometimes the conference organizers sometimes advise me make sure I've got enough stock of key books. But and the Women's Studies becomes obvious I take my whole feminist section and and I take a range of high end women's fiction and I, I took quite a lot of this one or two quite funny, wonderful comic sort of things about feminism and women's issues these days, I took those, you take a whole you gear it for the for the audience. [00:32:55] We're just going to take to kind of be fixed for a minute. And I'm just wondering out the books that you would not stock? [00:33:01] Ah, yes. So that's a good point. Yes. [00:33:05] There are gay male books, I wouldn't stop because I don't think they're appropriately women's bookshop, and they might be fine for me elsewhere. But I wouldn't have them here some of the more visual books and some of the leaning towards soft porn sort of box. I was also with the women's one or one or two women's ones that sort of a team endured softball, and I wouldn't, I wouldn't stop either. And I can choose to stop there, or not stop stock or not stop them. So to some extent, you're a gatekeeper. [00:33:35] But [00:33:37] yeah, maybe you're more of a [00:33:40] selector of I mean, I think that's why it's so important to have a whole range of small independent bookshops, where the passions of the individual owners are there and and, you know, the focus is different. I mean, the focus at Unity box is much more on writing by mean because they write the middle of the city and they get a lot of, of business mean their lunch hours and things. They know far more about male writers than I do. And I know far more about women writers than they do, which is why we work together so well for the Writers Festival, I think. But they have been. I mean, there was a book about women that some guy wrote, and I've kind of remember his name now that we got asked for the female something I forget. But a man had written and it was it was a massage in his book. I mean, it was it was really anti women. And I just refused to stop it. And I would say no, I don't stock. There's another one we had. We didn't have why refused to stop that was really popular for a while and it was about its name. Now. It was a battle white woman who went and lived with Aboriginal people in Australia and wrote this book. And the Aboriginal people objected to it. And so I wouldn't stalker. And people would ask and ask, and I would say, Well, I don't stop it because Aboriginal people objected to the culture be interpreted through a white woman's eyes, you know? And so I do I do make decisions about what not to stock. Don't stop Ben Brown. [00:35:07] Why would I bother everyone at all the big chains are, [00:35:13] you know, slashing the price on them and becoming a price war and competing. And I haven't been asked for him, let's really go it doesn't work. I did, in the end have to stop the 50 Shades of Grey, we resisted to start with and I was starting to what can I use polite word for us in total nonsense, really. But it was so popular that in the end, I had to stock out. And so we had a little phase of a few months where we sold all of the 50 shades of whatever, hand over fist and then it went out of fashion and we don't stop it anymore. Interestingly, there's a wonderful feminists book now called 50 shades of feminism that had deliberately has a great cover. And they've got 50 of the most famous feminist writers in the world, each write a very short piece about feminism now, and it's wonderful. It's funny and entertaining. And it's a brilliant title, my whole 50 Shades of Grey, you know, cult sort of phenomenon. So sometimes I'm forced to take things that I would prefer not to. Because I'd be made not to make money out of it, basically. Yeah. Can I just get back to working with Unity books on the open Writers Festival? Because I think it's a wonderful example of cooperation between two businesses that could be seen as rivals. And I think it ties into the question of ethics. And it ties into the whole sharing thing. The book, the open Writers Festival is a huge success. And I'm on the board of that festival. So I sat around Stephen Johnson's kitchen table, you know, more than a decade ago, where we discussed all the ideas with Peter wells and others, and, and is now this huge phenomenon. It's wonderful. It's so exciting. But the bookstore is ginormous. It's so big that it can't like what's never been able to be managed by one shot, we've always done up between us. And we right we actually operate a separate bookstore, that is the open Writers Festival bookstore, and I do have the ordering and Carolyn unity does half the ordering. And we literally do half the work each and it's a it's a cooperative store that we run that we work together. And we have lots of meetings, Carol and I to to decide how many books of each author we're going to get, and how many events they're in. And we're the books have to go as a huge logistical exercise in the quantity of books, but also where they're going to go because there are multiple venues there to center but also the art gallery and restaurants and hotels and all sorts of places. And that is a huge, huge undertaking. And we do it together cooperatively. And I think it's a marvelous example of two businesses that could be competitive actually working very cooperatively for the benefit of each other in the festival. And we sold a lot of books at this festival, it was wonderful. [00:37:58] You mentioned this earlier, independent stores and also maybe the larger chain stores. It does something like the woman's bookshop person with the other larger chain stores. [00:38:10] Well, we're tiny, and we can't compete with them on on the price discounting that they do. So we compete with them on good service. I think there's no doubt that the informed customers know that the small independent bookshops, the good ones, have staff who actually read and who can help them choose box and, and who provide good service and all those things that event and a big chain store, you don't get them. It's interesting that borders collapse, not just a New Zealand but internationally, there is no borders chain in the states now, I think because so often they're just about their business operation. They're about making money, they're about the bottom line. They're not about anybody loving books, that that's the weak point, really the fact that we love books, and we might be very tiny, but we can talk to people about the books we read, because recommend, I have book clubs come to the shop in the evenings. And I will talk to them about all the new fiction that I've read. And I will choose books for for the reading for the rest of the year. And I can record all of our books for ages. I do actually review a lot as well, that helps I review on national radio and Catherine Ryan about once a month. And then I do a TV program with Lindsay Dawson, let's talk on face TV. It used to be triangle TV, it's now face TV. And I do that once a week. And those are live broadcasts of me reviewing box live are available on our website and on on YouTube, obviously, and on our Facebook site. So there's me reviewing the box live, which is great. So I'm very good at talking about the books I've read, and that that helps our customers that would be very few staff and large chain stores anywhere in the world who could do that. So it's one of our advantages. We also entirely goes to great lengths to find books for people that are obscure and difficult Kate, and she will find them for them. So we take the time to find special orders for people. We've got into the whole technology thing as well because, I mean, I think we don't make any money out of it out of a box or out of selling e readers but we sell Kobo e readers. And the reality is people are going to buy Kindles. Every Kobo that I sell is someone who hasn't bought a Kindle. And that's a good thing because Kindle is linked to Amazon, Amazon really are the enemy. I went to the Frankfurt Book Fair last year and there was a two day international booksellers conference held within the Frankfurt Book Fair, but I was at and there were all sorts of countries, you know, from Latvia to not just not just America, and Australia and New Zealand and Canada, and so on. But there were Russia and Latvia and all sorts of European countries and saw a large number of countries, wide range of countries represented there that that international conference. And one of the discussion topics was what is the biggest threat to your industry and with auto your independent book, The Independent book shops in your country, and without fail, it was Amazon in every single country in the world, even the countries where Amazon hasn't quite got there yet. They said they know Amazon is coming. And Amazon is the biggest threat. They using boxes, lost leaders so they can sell gum boots, and anything else. They're quite unethical and what they do. They encourage people they reward people for going into book shops, real book shops with their smartphone, taking a photograph of the of the barcode on the back of that welcome in order to get through Amazon, they get a reward, they get a discount if they do that. So it's very unethical business practice. So I'm quite public about my opposition to Amazon. And Kindles are linked to Amazon. So I saw Cobos and say Cobos, have and we and you can just click on the Kobo button on the top left hand corner of our website, go into 3 million titles, which is at least as many if not more than what Amazon of God, and they already single company. And you can, you can download. I'm Kobo x onto your Sony e reader or your iPad or whatever. And you've got access to this vast, vast library books, no. 3 million books that you can buy, and there are much more ethical company than then Amazon. I mean, I we're not going to make any money out of ebooks. But I think we have to be up with the play. By our reality, I don't think that real box is going to disappear at all. But there's going to be different ways of accessing the material, you're going to either read it in a real book, or you're going to read it on a little screen. So we have to be involved in that and provide that service for our customers. We also have to be seen to be up with the play where you know, we're up there with the big boys on a very small scale. [00:42:42] Why do you think physical books, why disappear? [00:42:47] Why don't they write long too long after I'm dead. I don't know when there are enough generations of kids have grown up only with screens. But they're at the moment too many people who just love real box and who will do a compromise and a lot of people have got boys and they particularly love the E readers when they're traveling. I mean, it's perfect. You're sitting on a plane and you've got you know, 50 books on your on your Kobo e reader or on your, your iPad or whatever. And you don't have to carry any books with you. It's perfect, I will do the same when I travel. I'll take a Kobo e reader with me. But actually, in bed at night reading a book, I want a real book and a lot of people love the feel and the smell of books and want to be able to just turn the page and mark where they were, and go back and find something in market with a pencil. And yeah, it's interesting. I mean, eventually, who knows what'll happen? I do think we're in the middle of a revolution. [00:43:39] It's a bit like the printing press, you know? But [00:43:43] yeah, it'll be way in the future, we'll have generations of kids growing up only with screens, not with not with paper box, if I'm kind of got so used to screens that doesn't occur to them to read any other way. But that's a long way off stolen until then, I mean, I'll be dead. By the end, I feel as I'll be unboxing long enough before it happens. And then I'll either die behind the counter saying, hang on, hang on. I haven't finished the chapter or not that I read in the shop. But [00:44:08] that is time. But yeah. [00:44:13] Do you find that a lot of people come into the store, browse. But the next Gong order somewhere else. I mean, I'm sure [00:44:20] that happens. I'm sure that happens. They browse and they go in order from Amazon, or whoever. Yeah. And they, they sometimes don't understand that we're an online bookshop, they will say, if we haven't got to this at all, I'll get it online. And I said, but we've got an online bookshop we can get it as quickly for you is going online, we are online as well. And they don't quite understand they think of online as being Amazon or somewhere you know. And I'm in all our books online, we have a really good database. And we're actually linked to want a system called circle system that is developed in New Zealand for small independent bookshops. And it's an excellent system because it's linked to written Nielsen book data, which is the international database of everything in printed English in the world, that most booksellers internationally use, it's linked to that. So someone asked me for a book, I haven't got it, I go into Nielsen, I copy and paste their ice been onto my system, click a button and it pulls it over from Nielsen onto my database, and puts it straight up onto my website with a picture of the cabinet in most cases, a picture of the cover and a blurb about the book. And it's on my website. And so everything's online, and you can order online from our website. And we do get a lot of orders every day. And so it's a small but important percentage of our business, we will see that when there's some you can see some yellow courier bag sitting down there. Now we use those yellow pad career bags. And we will send out often a part of those every day, all over New Zealand. And sometimes I have to take things down for post office to this international stuff as well, using a box that overseas people can't get over there and so on. [00:45:58] Finding a lot of international orders coming in for New Zealand, right? [00:46:02] A few not not a huge amount. But yeah, enough enough. That's you know, it's another little tiny portion of our business. Yeah, there is incredibly but and the internet orders very incredibly, or the online order some days will have you know, a dozen sometimes will have only two or three varies hugely. But it's it's important and so and it's a good service that we provide, and we can get things as quickly as not as cheaply as Amazon. I mean, I don't know what I'm leaving now. But I have been on the board of booksellers New Zealand for a long time. And one of the issues that we as booksellers and Zealand as an association, I'm Lincoln Golder, the CEO there is fighting is the whole GST issue and we're trying to get the government and there is some movement on it, get the government to start charging GST on small things that come into the country because at the moment, it's an unfair playing field, if you order from Amazon, they they're not, there's no GST on the box that's going to be cheaper than I can provide it because I have to GST. So once that playing field is ironed out and will take a few years, I think to finally become law, but it will happen eventually that because the government is losing out on a huge [00:47:11] amount of money by all the small things not just books, but all sorts of stuff coming in [00:47:17] from overseas but no GST on it. So it's quite a big, important political and economic issue that we're fighting as booksellers New Zealand Association, [00:47:28] of the many independent booksellers stolen using, [00:47:31] but as many as they were, but there are still some good ones [00:47:35] in Wellington are often particularly I think we have I mean unity box and Wellington ism is magnificent that often one's great toe, but the Wellington one, particularly because it's so spacious is just fabulous. But there are good ones as little as timeout and mount Eden. There are lots of lots of good small ones. prices and toppers just closed down I think, I think in smaller areas, they finding it more difficult. [00:48:00] And there aren't so many in Christchurch, obviously artisans here is quite, but you still got Scorpio in one or two good ones in Christchurch. So [00:48:08] yeah, we're a bit thin on the ground. But I think the ones who are still there, we're there because what we do, we do very well. And we're passionate [00:48:17] about what we do. [00:48:19] And if you're committed and the owner operator needs to be there and be involved and be hands on and passionate about what they're doing and be a reader. And then I think I think those ones survive. [00:48:31] In what is your passion for books come from? [00:48:34] When I was an English teacher, I guess. And I did an English degree, obviously. And I and I taught drama. I don't know I've just as an adult always read and I don't particularly remember that we had a lot of books in my household as a child. But certainly, you know, I had messes of children's books for my kids and, and I now have this total joy of a two year old grandson, who walks in my apartment now and says read books now read books, Lana is the first thing and he's made keen on books. And he's got to the point at two and a quarter where he can read some of the pages to me because it's so familiar now. The ones with rhythm, he will he will I'll open the book and he will read me the first page. No, it's wonderful. So he's a kid growing up with with real books, not not ebooks. I don't know I've just read good fiction, all my adult life, I guess. [00:49:30] And I think that you [00:49:31] know that there's such good teenage [00:49:32] fiction now. [00:49:34] But when I was a teacher of English all those years ago, 25 years ago, [00:49:39] there was such a limited range of books. Now [00:49:40] it can be wonderful to be an English teacher now and have these fabulous novels that you can, you can teach the teenagers that are just inspiring and that they live with their interest level, you know, really interesting, well written stuff. A huge vast range of it out there. Mandy Hague is writing sounds like some good New Zealand writers who are writing really good issues and interesting topics for kids to discuss. Those books were there when I was teaching English all those years ago, I used to search for them. But I know I guess I've I've always loved books. [00:50:18] Can you talk a wee bit more about the relationship between the bookshop and women writers in New Zealand? [00:50:25] right but I do see what am i roles is to promote women writers, New Zealand women writers particularly, and they understand that and appreciate it. [00:50:35] I think [00:50:37] we have fantastic writers here. If you think of, of Fiona feral and down and makes peninsula and I mean, the broken book is what that which was writing about traveling and then the Christchurch earthquake happened and she broke the text up with these poems all the way through about the earthquake. The stories that that earthquake survivors told her and they appear through the breakout. The tix like aftershocks is just the most wonderful book for the ferals, a Total Gym. And then Fiona Kidman and Wellington wonderful writer, she's got another new novel coming out later this year about gene better. Stephanie Johnson, who I think is often underrated, doesn't get as much publicity as she should. She's a marvelous writer, she wrote a historical New Zealand novel last year, who the open world and this year has written this hilarious, wonderful novel called the writing class, which anybody writers listening to this should should buy, because it's a novel that works beautifully as a novel, but the main character is a tutor and the writing runs the writing class. And the novel teaches you how to write a novel [00:51:42] wonderfully clever. So we [00:51:44] have a whole range of of, of novelists and nonfiction writers and poets and poets like the wonderful poor green. So I, I do very much see my role as giving the New Zealand writers a voice I mean, through through the events that I run, having lunch in a box in the shop, or having them as taking part in the in the ladies that are at ease, but also making sure that they have a good space in the shop that I read their books, and I write my comments on them, and I will encourage people to buy them. I'm just about to read the elusive language of ducks. Incredible title, by Judas watch, it's just arrived in store and is my next book on my part and read so that I can talk to people about this new New Zealand books I make a point of reading the novels that New Zealand woman right and recommending them to people if I really like them. It's an important role that I play I thought [00:52:41] how big is your pile of books? [00:52:43] Oh, someone wants described my bedroom as a New York skyline pile teacher in piles. And I never have enough bookshelves. But. And I and every now and again, I have a slight sense of panic. But there's so many books. I can't ever read them all. And I [00:53:00] it's not fair. [00:53:00] For the women. I can't read them. I think so, you know, whether I read them or not. It's not that important in the great scheme of things. But yeah, I don't read fast enough. I wish I could get through them faster, really. But I'm picking and choosing is sometimes difficult. [00:53:17] But it but it gets dictated like I've got an occasion [00:53:19] there's another wonderful very young New Zealand writer who new novel, I've got a reading copy over really it's not coming out later in the year. The luminaries, but it's 800 pages is certainly my my baby, I know I've still got quite a few weeks before it hits the shelves, I've got time to read this 800 pages. But I will read the elusive language of ducks by Judith white right now because it's just arrived in the bookshop. And so that that dictates the order in which I read them. I'll try and read stuff, you know that's coming in, or has already arrived. And publishers give us lots of advanced reading copies of things. Because I know if I do that with a lot of the good independents, I know that if the good booksellers, read them and liked them and recommend them to customers, the still at hand selling fun goes on, you know, can't be here. [00:54:06] Do you think it's easier now for women in New Zealand to be published? [00:54:11] It has been but it's going to get harder because [00:54:15] there's this whole revolution going on with the publishers, and they're moving to Australia. Harper Collins have just announced to actually going in July this year. Penguin and random emerging internationally become one company, penguins warehouses already in Australia. And it's quite likely I mean, it's possible that random houses warehouse will move their 2 million move their last year. And there's just a fear about what will happen to the publishing arms of those New Zealand publishers. Hopefully there will still be editorial teams for penguin and random still in New Zealand. [00:54:49] But I fear that it might be actually harder, they're [00:54:51] only going to be able to publish things that they're pretty sure go to sell this has to be commercially viable. [00:54:59] So I'm not how how the future looks really for [00:55:02] from New Zealand publishing in general, not just women's books. I think we have to be careful. We have we have a unique voice. We actually publish brilliant nonfiction stuff. If you look at the the Book Awards every year, the New Zealand post Book Awards. The fiction and poetry is fantastic. This huge range of stunningly beautiful nonfiction box. We're very good at publishing, and we we need to preserve that. [00:55:27] Well, I wonder just in kind of finishing off, if you could tell me where you think the woman's bookshop is going? Well, you know, what, what, what is the future of the woman's bookshop? [00:55:41] Well, I do wonder if it has a long long term future, I don't know. [00:55:47] Someone wants some businessmen won't see that. [00:55:51] You know, tiny businesses only only [00:55:53] start to make money once they [00:55:56] have at least a minimum of three shots. And so you need to get some other branches and have three jobs. And in the discussion we were having and other woman said, but you can't can't clone Carol. So to some extent it is a personality driven business. But I'm sure there are wonderful women out there who could take over for me, I don't know, I have friends who say I should have an exit plan. I [00:56:19] have no exit plan apart from dying. [00:56:23] I don't know. But my main [00:56:26] aim for the future is to keep going to keep surviving and keep being a flourishing tiny little box off. And I think there's a good chance that as long as I'm fit and healthy and for the next few years, we can achieve that. What will happen after that I don't know really [00:56:43] with a [00:56:46] with a long term, there's a future for a women's bookshop at [00:56:49] all. silver moon was the bookshop in London. So Ramona, I talked earlier about the famous women's bookshop in London, it was called silver moon, it was in Charing Cross Road, it was there for a very long time. That was the one that moved to foils and then closed [00:57:02] down. [00:57:04] So I mean, I feel as do feel as if silver moon goes down. And eventually, there is no place for women's bookshops. Who knows because I mean, the feminist movement is, is strong again. So and there are young women now who are who are quite active as young feminists who are not just taking for granted some of the privileges that they've got that they don't even understand that my generation fought for. So I do I do think there's a continued need to make sure that women's voices are heard, because we still do basically live in a male dominated society where men are taken more seriously. And it's as I said before, it's an underlying, probably unconscious sort of assumption that's made. But so I believe there is still a place for women's workshops, but we're there. whether we'll survive long, long term after I'm dead, I don't know

This page features computer generated text of the source audio. It is not a transcript, it has not been checked by humans and will contain many errors. However it is useful for searching on keywords and themes.