Australia’s top book seller says Amazon threatens jobs and culture

Bondi. James D. Morgan / Contributor

Mark Rubbo of Melbourne institution Readings, the winner of the London Book Fair’s International Bookstore of the Year, says Australian jobs, culture and community are at risk from Amazon.

He says a third of independent bookshops — more than 500 of them who championed and nurtured local writers and reading communities — closed when Amazon opened in the UK.

“Amazon’s arrival into the Australian market poses the biggest threat to our cultural independence that we have ever seen,” says Rubbo, the managing director of Readings.

“For many Australian writers, booksellers and publishers life is a precarious balancing act but despite this they have given Australians unique Australian stories and voices and an exciting cultural industry. This didn’t exist 40 years ago.”

The US online giant is widely tipped to soon be trading goods via its Australian website, with both its own offering and that of third party sellers via its Amazon Marketplace.

There are reports that Amazon will be giving out free ice cream to promote its Australian launch.

The Amazon Australia website already sells books but the local launch will mean delivery from Australia plus the addition of electrical goods, clothing and cosmetics.

Rubbo says Amazon doesn’t care who the next Tim Winton (Cloud Street), Hannah Kent (Burial Rites), or Jane Harper (The Dry) is.

“We do,” he says. “Lovers of Australian books and culture have a choice where they put their dollars this Christmas and I urge them to show their independence and buy independent.”

Rubbo is a past president of the Australian Booksellers Association and was founding chair of the Melbourne Writers Festival.