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Melbourne’s Embiggen Books to close

Melbourne independent bookshop Embiggen Books will close in June 2019.

Co-owners Warren Bonnett and Kirsty Bruce established Embiggen in Noosaville on the Sunshine Coast 12 years go, before moving to Melbourne. The business has been at its current location, on Little Lonsdale Street in Melbourne’s CBD next to the State Library of Victoria and the Wheeler Centre, since August 2011.

Specialising in science, philosophy, politics and history books, with a relatively small fiction section, Embiggen has no online shop and the owners encourage customers to visit the physical space. Known for its low-lit, wood-panelled interiors, in 2012 Embiggen won a best fitout award for its ‘excellent window displays and beautiful fixtures’.

‘We’ve long felt that the bookshop is the perfect cultural space for people on the street to happen across well written material that could enhance their understanding of themselves and world,’ Bonnett and Bruce told Books+Publishing. ‘The retail environment is an easy, and we believe necessary, entry point for many people to discover important subjects without the perceived institutional barriers of universities or even libraries.’

Strong advocates for bricks-and-mortar retailing, Bonnett and Bruce remain optimistic about the potential for physical bookshops, stating that Embiggen’s closure is due to a unique combination of factors.

‘With increasing demands on our personal time we’ve found that we have not been able to devote the time to the shop that it needs to take advantage of some amazing changes happening in our part of the city,’ they said. ‘There are of course the ever-present demands of retail which form the background to our decision (macroeconomic fluctuations, online competition etc.) but these are mostly manageable factors if you can stay on top of these localised changing conditions.’

Bonnett also authored a piece for Books+Publishing in 2013 on the importance of bricks-and-mortar bookshops.

As part of Embiggen’s emphasis on nonfiction and critical thinking, the bookshop has held numerous events over the years, including the long-running Big Ideas Book Club; a neuroscience weekend of public lectures that was organised while the owners were still in Queensland; a conversation between medical researchers Professor Ian Fraser and Laureate Professor Peter Doherty; and the Enlightenment philosophy series held in conjunction with Laneway Learning.

However, according to the owners, ‘It is the personal stories of customers returning to tell us what a difference we’ve made to them and their families that make us feel like our time here has been a success.’

The decision to close has been a very difficult one to make, especially in light of the public reaction to news of the shop’s closure. According to Bonnett and Bruce, ‘The public outpouring of sadness that we have received from our community has been an extremely moving experience which has made this process both more difficult and deeply rewarding.’

Embiggen Books is currently up for sale.

(Pictured: Embiggen’s final window display)



Category: Local news