Home » Bookstores, Non-US » Gould’s Book Arcade owners blame ‘white bread’ culture for imminent closure

Gould’s Book Arcade owners blame ‘white bread’ culture for imminent closure

30 October 2017

From The Daily Mail:

Proudly left-wing Sydney institution Gould’s Book Arcade is facing the axe as commercial pressures force it out of its decades-long home in Newtown.

The iconic Sydney University hangout, a one-time rallying centre for anti-Vietnamese war protesters and lately an unofficial office helping asylum seekers, has just three months to find a new home or a benefactor.

Owners of the King St business, founded in 1967 and billed as Australia’s largest retailer of used, remaindered, out-of-print and rare books under one roof, say they can’t afford the rent after enduring years of losses.

They are already looking for new premises.

“My father Bob started this as a bookshop of resistance during the Vietnam War. It belonged to resisters and was run by resisters,” said current owner Natalie Gould. “I wouldn’t have spent the past 6½ years trying to keep it open if it wasn’t.

“I’m a socialist, always have been and always will be. I don’t understand capitalism. I grew up in the shop, crawling on the floor when it was in Goulburn St. I love books and I just identify with the joint.

“But it has been a struggle trying to stay afloat.”

. . . .

“Every second shop is a dress shop, a bar or a coffee house. Is that the only kind of culture you want in the city?

“It’s slowly becoming white bread and I think that’s sad.”

Link to the rest at The Daily Mail and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG’s business advice for the day is don’t build your business on Vietnam war protesters. If the war didn’t kill your target demographic, age will.

Bookstores, Non-US

26 Comments to “Gould’s Book Arcade owners blame ‘white bread’ culture for imminent closure”

  1. I’m a socialist, always have been and always will be. I don’t understand capitalism

    Could someone explain how a socialist would run a business (vs a capitalist)?

    • poorly. “they can’t afford the rent after enduring years of losses. – she can now only afford to pay less than half the rent.”

      Read the OP to see what sort of white knight socialists fantasize about…

    • My guess is the state subsidizes her business and keeps it afloat? (Although wouldn’t a socialist/communist state shut her subversive bookstore down?)

      I think somebody who either doesn’t understand or dislikes capitalism probably shouldn’t be running a business.

      Even if she feels her neighborhood is becoming too “white bread,” if people want to read her books, they can buy them off Amazon. Her audience/customers obviously don’t want to pay her marked up retail prices so she can keep having a store. She should sell her books on Amazon. Without a physical store to pay for, she’d probably do a lot better.

      I love her line about how the city council is obviously rolling in money and could easily afford to buy her shop and keep running a “business” at a loss. Yes, she doesn’t understand how money actually works. If they spent four or five million on her store, what happens to the police force? The schools? The city infrastructure? All the people who rely on that money to keep their city running? I wouldn’t want my tax dollars spent on someone who obviously isn’t worth the “ethical” investment.

      • The proletariat buy their books on Amazon because the price is friendlier to the working class.

      • I suspect she would be pleased at what would happen to the police force. After all, weren’t the police on the opposite side during Viet Nam War protests?

      • there you go being rational again, Sariah.

        I think her idea is not socialism. It sounds more like welfare.

        “I love her line about how the city council is obviously rolling in money and could easily afford to buy her shop and keep running a “business” at a loss. Yes, she doesn’t understand how money actually works. If they spent four or five million on her store, what happens to the police force? The schools? The city infrastructure? All the people who rely on that money to keep their city running? I wouldn’t want my tax dollars spent on someone who obviously isn’t worth the “ethical” investment.”

    • My understanding is that a free-market capitalist prices goods for sale at the point where increasing prices reduces profits. If that price yields insufficient profits, a capitalist will figure out a way to produce and sell their goods at a market price that provides a sufficient profit, or they go out of business.

      A socialist prices goods for sale at a price that they feel optimizes the common good as they perceive it. If that does not yield sufficient profit, they change their business or go out of business.

      The way I look at it, both ways work. It’s a matter of personal preference and definitions of common good. Capitalists probably make more money. Socialists are not concerned about that so much.

      I notice a lot of people blend their model to match their taste. Religiously motivated people put limits on their business to conform to their religious motivations. Some people shape their business to benefit their chosen groups. Others focus only on maximizing profits. There are lots of ways to live and everyone chooses for themselves.

      • The way I look at it, both ways work

        Both ways can work. But both ways are still subject to the same economic forces. There is still a price where raising it reduces profit, and lowering it reduces profit.

        And common good? Consumers let us know. Just look how they buy stuff. Each consumer is an expert at determining his own common good since individual tastes and preferences vary.

        I just paid $14 for a band saw blade. That increased my personal welfare because I say it did. However, most folks don’t buy band saw blades because it would decrease their personal welfare. We don’t need anyone to figure that out for us.

      • Thanks Democritus and all the others for your responses.

        I never realized there was anything other than capitalism when it came to (for profit) businesses.

        • At the most basic level, people work and expend resources to create something they value. Given our acquisitive nature, the output is typically intended to be more valuable than the input.

          A sharp stick used to plant seeds has more value than the effort to find the branch and sharpen it. A crop has more value than the labor and sharp stick used to plant and harvest it.

          A society that does not generate greater value than the resources and labor it uses dies.

          Measure that value in dollars, and we call it profit.

  2. I love how so many of these failing bookshop owners blame everyone/thing except their own lack of business acumen.

    • What *I* love is how consistently failing bookstores refuse to blame their customers – in particular, the customers who are not customers – who don’t come in and buy books. They’ll say all sorts of things and blame Amazon or WalMart or Cell Phones, but they won’t come right out and admit out loud that their problems stem from the fact that people are not coming through the door and handing over money for books.

  3. I just read this, remembering a young fellow I knew about forty years ago who was the head of the Socialists here in Nova Scotia. He was going to the same university as myself and we were friends. Years later I ran into him on a bus and he sadly told me that he had to give up on socialism and go get himself a law degree. I felt bad for him because he was taking it so hard.

    • Lots of guys moved from the barricades to the bar back then.

      • I hear you. Actually, I never spent much time on the barricades. I would have made a wicked social activist if I hadn’t spent so much of my life just trying to pay the bills.

        About thirty years ago I found my way into a local Halifax Anarchist group meeting. At least they called themselves anarchists. They had a secret password that I had to e-mail them – Red Emma.

        They were planning to protest a local in-city road race for Moosehead Beer that involved them barricading our local public commons for a week.

        I was inspired, I tell you. I said to this group of anarchists that we needed to get ourselves a pickup truck and some shovels and drive to the local wildlife park and shovel up a truckload of moose s*** from out of the moose pen. Then we needed to find ourselves a stuffed moosehead and mount it on the front hood of the trick. THEN we needed to drive that moose s*** laden pickup truck right up to the race barricades and shovel the heap of moose s*** right out onto the track.

        “It’ll make a hell of a stink,” I said. “Maybe even screw with the race car traction. Hell, I’ll stand in the pickup truck and shovel.”

        (actually, I was the only one at that meeting who looked like he had done ANY sort of shovel work.)

        “Uh…” the leader of the so-called anarchists said. “Isn’t that just a little radical. We were just planning on circulating a petition.”

        Insert laugh track here.

        Still, my buddy the socialist, WAS the real deal way back then, and I think his heart was truly broken when he crossed over.

        • “Uh…” the leader of the so-called anarchists said. “Isn’t that just a little radical. We were just planning on circulating a petition.”

          Hahahahaha! 😆 Sooooo Canadian!

          How do you get a hundred Canadians out of your swimming pool?

          You say, “Canadians, please get out of the pool.”

  4. Gould’s isn’t really a bookstore. It is a complete mess, mostly decades old second hand books, bookshelves overflowing and stacks in the aisles. It is a terrible place to look for books and hardly anyone shops there. It should have gone out of business long ago.

    • Ashe Elton Parker

      I suspect it would have if the owners hadn’t had a “pretty good” landlord who let them slide on the rent for so long.

  5. “I’m a socialist, always have been and always will be. I don’t understand capitalism. … But it has been a struggle trying to stay afloat.”
    Maybe this will help:
    Capitalism is the survival of the fittest
    Socialism is the survival of the scavenger

    • I cannot agree. For me, characterizing either capitalist or socialist in a four word phrase that differs only by a single word is an oversimplification and a disservice to both. I have not noticed that the fittest capitalist always survives and I don’t believe for a moment that a principled socialist is a scavenger. I usually prefer a capitalist approach in practice, but dismissing the socialist approach so glibly undercuts the capitalist position.

  6. My knowledge is a few years out of date but Newtown is a thoroughly gentrified very inner-city suburb of Sydney. It was a traditional “working class” suburb which has been transformed beyond recognition. It is home to the main Sydney University campus and a large teaching hospital. It is walking distance to the City. It is full of trendy cafes and restaurants and esoteric shops not to be found in many other places, including a couple of surviving bookstores and a Cinema which boasts of showing “quality” films. Any attempt to open a Starbucks or Gloria Jeans or the like is met with vocal opposition and threatened boycotts. Last I knew even McDonalds had no presence in the suburb. It has a large LGBTQ community. It is, in short, a thoroughly progressive suburb like those to be found in wealthy cities all over the world, including many US cities. And, hardly surprisingly for this demographic, there is plenty of money around. Rents are sky high and still rising. Demand is high. To survive in this area today a book store would need to be an extremely well run business indeed.

  7. I’m sorry your belief system dictates that someone else pay for you to do the thing you want to do. Especially since no one seems willing to do that. That’s the problem here. She doesn’t want to do anything else and feels entitled to have the shop because socialism. Money has to come from somewhere. You don’t have to understand capitalism just the basic economics that every third grader is taught. Supply and demand.

    • We do have to pay for some things in common that not everyone uses to the same degree, such as schools and roads and parks.

      For books, we have this thing called a library, which is often supported by public funds because it provides reading material to the community, and reading is considered ‘a good thing.’

      A bookstore is not on this list of things some people grumble about supporting ‘for the good of the community.’

      • I find Home Depot provides great good for the community. So do grocery stores, plumbers, and internet providers. Any one ready to trade flushing toilets for a used bookstore?

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