Australian Literature on the Shelves

In "The Age" over the weekend, Simon Casterton asks whether it is advisable any longer for bookshops to have a separate section for Australian literature. The basic question is: does this tend to "ghetto-ise" Australian literature or make it easier to find?

Casterton visits a number of bookshops asking their opinion on the matter, and, as you might expect, gets a number of differing responses. Some like the division as it makes it easier for customers - especially overseas visitors - to find what they are looking for, and others dislike it as it appears to be an out-moded method of singling out Australian literature for attention. The question is asked: "Why can't Thea Astley be shelved next to Margaret Atwood?"

Why indeed. I do it at home, but then I also shelve Le Carre next to Le Guin; well, not quite, as Carol Lefavre has slipped in between, but you know what I mean. It's just as much a legitimate question to ask why sf and crime fiction is not shelved in the general fiction section, as to wonder the same about Australian literature. In my house fiction is just fiction: doesn't matter if it is crime, literary, historical or sf. It all gets lumped together. It only depends on what fits on which shelves. I've got a good idea of what is on my bookcases and I just need to know in which room a book is probably located.

Bookshops face a different problem, in that customers may have no idea of what they are looking for and need some easy method of narrowing down any search they may undertake. Shops do this by placing their crime fiction in one section, their biographies in another, and, in some, Australian fiction in a section of its own. I don't have a problem with different shelving methods for the shop and the home. It's the ease of identification and discovery that is the issue.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on December 7, 2007 11:04 AM.

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