Fed Square writes the final chapter on its weekly book market

One of the vendors, Rose Rennes. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett
One of the vendors, Rose Rennes. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett
Bookmarket at Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

Bookmarket at Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

One of the vendors, Ludmilla Barnes. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

One of the vendors, Ludmilla Barnes. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

One of the vendors, George Polykandrites. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

One of the vendors, George Polykandrites. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

One of the vendors, Sofia Goodsoul. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

One of the vendors, Sofia Goodsoul. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

One of the vendors, Andrew Barnes. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

One of the vendors, Andrew Barnes. Federation Square, Melbourne. September 23rd 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

When Melbourne successfully applied to become the second UNESCO City of Literature in 2008, it spruiked the strength of its independent book selling in its formal bid.

That included "the weekly book market held at Federation Square, Melbourne's main outdoor meeting place", which offers second-hand classics, collector's editions, children's books, and new and popular titles.

But after welcoming the many stalls to the square's Atrium for 14 years, Fed Square management has given them their marching orders and next Saturday's (September 30) instalment will be the final one for the foreseeable future.

Fed Square held a review of its programs earlier this year and told the booksellers that it wanted to open up the Atrium for "wider venue hire and a variety of public activations" as part of a plan to "revitalise our public programming and community engagement more widely".

There is also the question of money. The market usually has between 15 and 20 booksellers offering second-hand and new titles. They pay $30 for each of their tables, so the group usually pays about $1200 per Saturday.

But Caroline Pitcher, Fed Square's general manager commercial and public engagement, denied the decision was a commercial one. "It really is looking at the small pool of resources that we do have to give out every year and focusing those and ensuring that they are revitalised and move forward."

One of the booksellers, Rose Rennes, said they had met what they were asked to do by Fed Square. "We are diverse, family friendly and fit in with the City of Literature," she said. "We want books to remain visible to locals, interstate and overseas visitors."

The booksellers asked to extend their tenure until the end of the year, but that proposal was rejected. Ms Rennes said they had not been given enough time to find a new venue and faced the problem of selling stock they had invested in for the market.

Ms Pitcher said that had the market been able to contribute more to the costs, it might have given the booksellers a bit more time. "But it certainly wasn't the determining factor."

Andrew and Ludmilla Barnes run stands specialising in Russian art and literature, military books, philosophy and first editions. Andrew Barnes said he had no doubt the decision was a commercial one.

"Financially this is not to be a huge impost on us as I run a successful online business, but for some of the other people here [whose only outlet is the market] it's going to be financially pretty hard; they put in a lot of stock for Fed Square."

This story Fed Square writes the final chapter on its weekly book market first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.