"Carlton's closing down." The word went around the Twitter/Facebook/email/carrier pigeon sphere a couple of weeks ago. Everyone who got it knew what it meant. The Carlton second-hand bookshop, on Grattan Street, just near Melbourne University, was finally giving up the ghost -- its windows announced a closing-down sale, with 50% off everything. For dedicated bibliophiles, the chance of picking up a few bargains barely made up for the greater tragedy -- that what was once the doyen of Melbourne second-hand bookshops, a two-storey Victorian terrace that could barely contain tens of thousands of volumes on everything from zymurgy to aardwolfs, could no longer survive, right on the doorstep of a major university.
For some -- and I'm one of them -- this will be a bitter blow. These days, one practices a kind of triage with regard to, well, everything. DVD rental stores? Nearly gone. Music stores? Having a mini-vinyl revival, but the standard suburban record store is becoming a thing of the past. Ditto the independent first-run bookstore, the single-screen arthouse cinema, the printed quality newspaper, and on and on. Second-hand bookshops started falling away a bit later than new bookstores, but when they went, they went fast. There was a half dozen of them in the CBD or nearby a decade ago, and five more in Carlton. The Carlton is the last of them. Grub Street in Fitzroy remains, as do a few up Sydney Road, Brunswick, and Smith Street, Collingwood. It's the same in Sydney, less so further afield. But it will happen everywhere.