One of my absolute favourite places in the suburb is Ariel Books. If I am not at home, in the pub or at Strawberry Cream cafe, I can usually be found wandering around the bookshelves of Ariel. It's one of those places I always go to when I am bored as you can while away hours in there, because there is so much to look at.
Right next to the entrance are all the freshly printed titles, covering fiction, non-fiction, art, design and fashion. From there, I always make a bee-line straight for the children's book section. I love picture books, and Ariel always seems to have the latest and greatest from Australia and around the world.
One of the best things about Ariel is that most of the book covers face outwards, so instead of seeing rows and rows of boring spines, the books jump out at you, begging to be picked up and looked at.
Ariel also sells loads of curious little knick-knacks from Mexico, Japan and other countries. I once bought a skyscraper lamp, which I had to build from 64 pieces of cardboard. There are also notebooks, cards, chocolates and diaries, which make great gifts.
Ariel opened in 1983 and owner Jane Blanks has managed to out-survive the arrival of the mammoth Borders books in Australia, which went in to voluntary administration last month with less than $1 million in the bank.
The REDGroup, which owns the Borders and Angus & Robertson book chains, blamed the Australian Government's refusal to charge consumers tax on overseas imports, under $1000, as part of the reason behind their collapse.
Australian booksellers such as Borders and Ariel pay hefty tariffs when they purchase books from international distributors, which bumps the retail price up for readers. This tariff was put in place by the government to protect local distributors and publishers.
But it has failed in part because consumers simply log online and buy the cheaper books from overseas themselves, sometimes at a third of the Australian retail price.
But the problem poses a Catch 22. If publishers and distributors here were able to lower their prices to compete with their international counterparts, it would mean smaller and smaller payments to authors and artists and - worst case scenario - could lead to the end of Australian publishing. Who wants to spend hours and hours toiling away on a novel, to receive a pittance from publishers?
So all booksellers appear to be suffering at the moment as readers ditch bookstores and go online to buy books and e-books.
Independent Zabriskie Booksellers in Bondi recently closed after more than 20 years in business. The co-owner of Gleebooks, in Sydney's inner-west, David Gaunt, has also said the industry is struggling.
But I suspect - and hope - that Ariel will continue to trade for another 28 years and more because of their unique stock and the ''experience'' of shopping there. Ariel always has books that you can't find in other retailers and they seem to stay one step ahead of their clientele by ordering in such titles.
Admittedly, I don't buy books online, and that's because I like to browse and I like to touch and feel and flick through the pages. I also like to read the first line of any novel I buy.
Ariel also offers the most beautiful FREE gift-wrapping service, so whenever I need to buy a gift for someone, that's where I shop.
So please go to Ariel; buy some books and support Australian writers and publishing.
Visit Ariel's website to subscribe to their newsletter for special offers, news and invitations to literary events at the shop. TONIGHT Ariel is celebrating the launch of Anna Johnson's books, Savvy Chic, from 7pm. On Thursday March 24 Ariel will also be launching a book about Aboriginal artist Yannima Pikarli Tommy Watson. Visit the Ariel website for details.
42 Oxford Street
Darlinghurst NSW 2010
02 9332 4581