You Say Westfield. I Say…

Much was made of shoppers completing their Christmas shopping online. Mostly by physical-store retailers who reckoned they wuz being robbed because offshore online retailers don’t have to charge GST. I won’t deny that price at least in part drove people out of stores and on to their computers, but I will say that I think that was but a small part of the equation. Me? I shop online for a variety of reasons (well beyond the fact that I’m a blogger for this good, carbon neutral, online bookstore and it’d be in my interest to say so). The other reasons are, in no particular order, as follows:

You say Westfield? I say somebody kill me now

Seemingly never-ending university study and a need and desire to feed myself necessitated that I worked in retail for more years than I care to admit. And retail is officially the seventh circle of hell, with the general public automatically assuming that you’re stupid and slow and treating you accordingly.

Years of politely attempting to assist people who get aggressive and abusive when you don’t immediately know which orange book (um, there’s like 150 Penguin Modern Classics for starters) they’re after has left me with something of an aversion to shopping centres and the general public in general. You say Westfield? I say I’d rather die than venture into one.

Just what I want and need and no more

As someone who had to do it herself and struggled with every minute of it, the forced greeting within 30 seconds of you entering the shop and the subsequent efforts to ‘add on’ extra, high-margin but entirely-unneeded items irks me no end. It disturbs me in financial and environmental terms, with the former taxing people who often can’t afford even the items they originally set out to purchase and the latter taxing the environment as these extra, undesired, unused items end up in landfill.

Pretty wallpaper makes lots of landfill

The advent of big-box book retailers brought with it the promise of every title your heart could possibly desire being housed and sold under one roof. The lure of these places is vast and compelling (seriously, my body sniffs out and gravitates towards the book perfume whenever I’m—against my better judgement—in a shopping centre). But there’s also a dark side.

Lots of shelf space means lots of books are needed to make said shops look full and enticing. Not all of these books are sold and end up acting as a sort of three-dimensional wallpaper before being returned—under a Sale or Return (SOR) agreement—to the publisher for what often ends up being pulping.

Consider the resources consumed to first produce, then freight, then re-freight, then pulp these books, and bricks-and-mortar stores aren’t shaping up so book- or environmentally friendly. The books might look good on the shelf, but they don’t sit so well in landfill or on my conscience.

Letting my fingers do the walking

Borrowing the jingle from an ironically now-largely-online phonebook, it’s smarter to let my fingers do the walking rather than my feet. For starters it saves the tread, and for seconds and thirds it saves the environment and my shopping-centre-worn-down sanity. It’s taken me a while to realise it, but intermanet shopping has someone other than me chase around and find stock. I have no idea why I/we haven’t embraced this easier form of shopping earlier.

It’s like Christmas every day

These days most of my mail arrives via email, and most of it’s bills. Nothing excites me less or frustrates me more than coming home to find physical junk mail—wasteful, environmentally unfriendly letterbox spam—poking out of my little letterbox. Offsetting that, though, is receiving packages of books in the mail.

I (admittedly) buy too many books and rarely remember what’s on its way, which means that finding and unwrapping those parcels is a lot like receiving Christmas presents. There’s some sizing up, some shaking, and some guessing before I peel open the package to unveil the book within. And frankly, that’s not something I can get from a physical store.

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Fiona Crawford

Fiona Crawford is a freelance writer, editor, blogger, proofreader, and voracious reader. She regularly appears as a book reviewer in Australian BOOKSELLER+PUBLISHER magazine. Fiona is also (unfairly) known as the Book Burglar due to her penchant for buying family members—then permanently borrowing—books she wants to read herself.

One thought on “You Say Westfield. I Say…”

  1. I agree with all those points (including the lure of the massive bookshop when unfortunately in a big shopping centre).

    buying from Australian booksellers is my preference, so it’s great to have Boomerang, especially given their support of local writers.

    I do buy from indie bookshops in person, but physical bookshops, even the whopping ones, don’t always have what I’m looking for – online bookshops often do; and if not, I can go from one shop to another in seconds; and there’s always second-hand bookbuying online.

    and isn’t it great getting the parcels? such fun!

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