Western Australian Booksellers: VIVA Books, Busselton

Words by Charlotte Guest, Publishing Officer at UWA Publishing


Here's one for the readers "down south", a colloquialism that apparently apparently only makes sense to Western Australians. "Where down south?" a Victorian may ask, "where specifically?" Specifically down south, mate, the glorious Southwest, as opposed to "up north" or "further east." 

The next bookshop featured in our WA Booksellers series is VIVA Books in Busselton. Owner Chris Lysaght tells us a little bit about the uniqueness of his shop...

Tell us the story of your bookshop: how, when and why was it established, and how has it changed since then?

    In October 2010 we opened VIVA BOOKS in Busselton after waiting two years for an appropriate site. We are a family of five and we all love to read, which is some of the motivation to open our own store. I was working in Perth Monday to Friday and home only on the weekends so establishing a bookshop in Busselton meant we would all have time together. We didn’t understand at the time but we were opening in the perfect ‘bookstorm’ where the global financial crisis was hitting Australia and eBooks were being launched. We have weathered this storm and grown as a business every year since so we consider ourselves very lucky.

    What makes your bookshop unique?

      Our customers tell us we have such a wide and uncommon range of books. We cater not only for the booklover, but also have a good range of quality gifts that were, initially, book related. As the years have gone by the gifts have moved more toward the lifestyle of our readers and not just book style gifts. We receive compliments daily on our store and its range and are often asked if we could open a VIVA BOOKS in Perth, so we think we must be doing something right. 

      What is your take on the current climate for independent bookselling in Australia?

        Independent bookstores are doing very well in Australia and have gone from being somewhat marginalised five years ago to being a great destination for both the purchase experience and for their atmosphere. People love the smell and feel of books and bookstores and readers feel a sense of belonging in them.

        What are the most popular genres in your store? Have you noticed any changes over the years or have book-buying trends remained consistent for you?

          Our most popular genres are Classics, Teen, Children’s books, Crime, Bio and Cooking. We have had numerous trends that will make a genre top of the list for a while such as; 50 shades of Grey, Ben Cousin’s bio, Hunger Games, Paleo Lifestyle, Andy Griffiths Treehouse series and now colouring in books which are currently our top selling genre. Other than these trends people’s reading habits in terms of genre seem to have been about the same in our time.

          What’s the most bizarre question a customer has asked you?

          "Has Elisabeth Salander (the character in The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo)written a book?"

          What’s the juiciest thing you’ve overheard in your bookstore?

          [CG: Another no comment! The unspoken confidentiality agreement between bookseller and buyer seems as solid as that between doctor and patient!] 

          In your opinion, what qualities make a good reader?

          I think anyone who enjoys reading is a good reader. One thing that I have learnt in five years of owning a bookstore is that reading is like being part of a club and when you are in a bookstore everyone feels that. It really doesn’t matter what you read and no one should censor or criticise your choice. 

          What is your vision for the future of VIVA Books?

          I see bookstores, particularly independent bookstores, lasting well into the future. A book is such a unique product in that it offer hours of entertainment: good value for money, never needs recharging, you can treat it as you like without fear of damage and it can remain in your mind and heart forever.

          List your top three tips for someone wanting to open their own independent bookstore.
          1. Love books and reading.
          2. Choose books for your customers with your heart and your head.

          Customer service is king and everyone who walks into your store is a customer from the courier delivering your supply to the person buying a book.

           

          VIVA BOOKS is located at 82 Queen St Busselton, and can be reached on (08) 9751 4814

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