No happy end­ing for book fairs

Central Leader - - FRONT PAGE - By ELESHA ED­MONDS

IT’S THE fi­nal chap­ter for two of Auck­land’s largest book fairs and dig­i­tal me­dia could be to blame.

Ep­som Ro­tary Club held its fi­nal an­nual book fair this month af­ter 19 years.

The event at Mt Eden War Me­mo­rial hall, at­tracted thou­sands of cus­tomers and made $20,000 with prof­its put to­wards the club’s com­mu­nity projects.

‘‘It’s the end of an era,’’ club pres­i­dent Alan Snaith says.

‘‘We started ten­ta­tively in 1996 at Mar­cellin Col­lege school hall with the sup­port of cou­ple of other Ro­tary Clubs. Af­ter some years of growth we had to move to larger and more vis­i­ble premises at the Mt Eden War Me­mo­rial Hall.’’

Snaith says times are chang­ing, with many read­ing on dig­i­tal me­dia and do­ing re­search on­line.

‘‘There has been a sig­nif­i­cant drop in de­mand for the likes of ref­er­ence books, recipe books and all non­fic­tion ma­te­rial. Even hard­back nov­els don’t sell like they used to.

‘‘Its time to ac­cept the change and stop.’’

Auck­land’s Up­start Press direc­tor Kevin Chap­man says e-books give con­sumers cheaper op­tions.

‘‘If you think about the fact peo­ple can buy e-books for $10 or less, sec­ond­hand books are far less at­trac­tive.’’

E-books are popular for those who want to dis­pose of the book af­ter read­ing, Chap­man says.

‘‘They’re the books peo­ple wanted to read once or were ashamed to read.’’

Chap­man says sales of new pa­per­back books have not been hit by e-books as much as peo­ple may think.

‘‘I know of peo­ple who bought books on an e-reader and then have gone out to buy a pa­per­back copy.’’

Ro­tary mem­ber David Tay­lor says the fair has seen a decline in book sales over the years, par­tic­u­larly in non-fic­tion.

‘‘If you want to re­search some­thing as far as the sec­ond stuff goes you will go on­line and Google it or Wikipedia it, rather than buy a book on it.’’

He says the fair’s run­ning costs were get­ting too high.

‘‘Ba­si­cally we are not get­ting the sale vol­umes to pay for all the ex­tras,’’ Tay­lor says.

‘‘We have to hire the hall, hire ta­bles and eft­pos, and each year it goes up.’’

It’s numb­ing to see the event come to an end, Tay­lor says.

‘‘We’ve got to find other things we can do in the com­mu­nity that is bet­ter value for money.’’

Va­ri­ety the Chil­dren’s Char­ity is hold­ing its fi­nal Mon­ster Book Fair at Alexan­dra Park in July.

Pro­ceeds from the an­nual event go to­wards the char­ity’s work help­ing sick, dis­abled and dis­ad­van­taged Kiwi young­sters.

But run­ning the event has taken a toll on vol­un­teers over the last 10 years.

Va­ri­ety’s com­mu­nity en­gage­ment manager Carly Thom­son says the fair re­lies on vol­un­teers to work full­time for up to five days.

‘‘Ba­si­cally our vol­un­teers are ex­hausted and can’t com­mit to run­ning it,’’ she says.

‘‘It was a hard de­ci­sion to make and it is a shame.’’

Thom­son says the Va­ri­ety fair has also no­ticed a drop in sales.

The char­ity is plan­ning to re­for­mat its book fair to make it eas­ier for vol­un­teers and is also look­ing at on­line op­tions.

‘‘Peo­ple like do­nat­ing books and we don’t want to stop that,’’ Thom­son says.

‘‘We are in dis­cus­sions with a few peo­ple and in the next month or two will have a clear plan of what is to come.’’

Photo: ELESHA ED­MONDS

Ep­som Ro­tary Club mem­ber David Tay­lor says the club’s book fair wasn’t sell­ing enough to sus­tain the an­nual event.

Photo: SUP­PLIED

Af­ter 19 years, the Ep­som Ro­tary Club held its fi­nal book fair.

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