In awe of the written word
By Dawn Cohen
PLUCKY rural bookshopowners like Ballina's Ian Duncan are thriving in a market that has felled many of their overseas counterparts.
Internet purchasing through Amazon.Com combined with the discounting power of bookshop superstores like Borders is destroying many independent booksellers in the US and the UK.
But like many independent rural Australian stores, Mr Duncan's Ballina Quays Book Exchange survives on canny purchasing and personal service.
His eclectic collection includes a multivolume History of Australia at War by historian C.W Bean for $400, a cult magazine on witchcraft and books for under a dollar.
"You have to be willing to go out of your way to help the customer, " said Mr Duncan, a former school principal from the Northern Territory.
"You also have to know your market ? what is popular now and what was sold in the past.
"We don't compete with the superstores, we provide something else altogether."
That 'something else' is palpable as you step into his modest space in Ballina West Shopping Centre.
Without computers, trendy down-lights, promotional posters or even a cash register you are transported into a time when a reverence for the written word matched or even transcended the financial imperative for book sellers.
"The most important qualification for this job is loving the books," said the 61-year-old, who opened the business seven months ago.
"But we have set a goal of being profitable within 12 months, and it is goal we are reaching already."
Mr Duncan chose Ballina to set up his shop after retiring from education because he had family in the area.