Interview with a New Zealand Bookshop Manager
Before I travelled to New Zealand I corresponded with a few authors and did not bring their books with me, foolishly thinking I could buy books by New Zealand authors in New Zealand.
Once I arrived in Auckland I went to the airport bookstore hoping to find something by the authors I had corresponded with but — no joy. There were science fiction, fantasy, romance and mystery books along with general fiction, but with few exceptions, mostly of travel books and maps, I might have been in an American bookstore where some mischievous employee had gone around doubling or tripling the price tags.
I tried a number of private bookshops in Christchurch and found limited sections of books by New Zealand authors and the authors I was familiar with in the states.
Next I tried at the University Bookshop, Canterbury Limited, (UBS) on the University of Canterbury campus. There was a section for New Zealand authors, textbooks for courses, children’s and young adult fiction as well as all genres of fiction. Several visits later, and between semesters, I worked up the nerve to talk to the manager, Gillian Newman, who graciously took the time to set me aright even though she had an upcoming sale to prepare for.
When I mentioned that books seemed relatively expensive she explained that the store had to pay a 15% import tax on all goods from overseas in addition to shipping costs. She also explained that, although there are many New Zealand publishers, national readership is relatively small in comparison to countries with larger populations which means publishers have short printing runs and relatively more expensive in production.
She said many successful national authors publish with foreign publishers to generate more sales so their books have higher prices in New Zealand. She pointed out that the shop has more national authors available than most shops and pointed out some award-winning children’s authors from their relatively large children’s section.
Ms. Newman said that the shop was co-owned in part by the student association but financially not associated with the university. She said students could often buy books on line or in the form of e-books for less than they could in the shop so buying books for the shop is tricky.
Thanks to Gillian Newman for her patience and kindness in answering questions. I thought readers might be interested in the bookshop trade here.