Event: Evolution of the Bookshop at the Wheeler Centre.

I never thought a seemingly boring panel conversation about e-books versus hard copy print media would trump a discussion about masculinity in Australia, but it seems “The Evolution of the Bookshop” has come out on top when it comes to talks I’ve seen at the Wheeler Centre lately.

I’m a bit late reporting on this one, but a couple of weeks ago I attended “The Evolution of the Bookshop”, which entailed the panel of Michael Webster, Corrie Perkin, Jo Case and Chris Flynn, with Sally Heath as the facilitator.

The main item of contention on the agenda was the receivership of the REDgroup, which includes Borders and Angus & Robertson (for those of you living under a rock in recent months) and how online shopping from overseas stores, like Amazon and the Book Depository, may have contributed.

2010 was a good year for books in Australia, actually, as Webster, of RMIT and Nielson BookScan, pointed out in a riveting (no, I’m not kidding!) spreadsheet. There was no denying the large amount of Australian dollars that were spent online on books, what with parity and all that jazz, and the panel urged the audience to buy local throughout the night.

But when Flynn, fiction editor of The Australian Review of Books, compared the prices of all the books he bought over the course of a year at Borders (the devil’s bookstore, according to the panel!), Readings (of which Case is a staff member) and the Book Depository (there was over $1000 difference between online and at a bricks and mortar bookstore), it doesn’t bode well for physical bookstores.

Personally, I’m not in the financial bracket to be supporting local bookstores when I can get the books I want online for half the price at a click of a button.

Earlier this year, I went into Borders at Melbourne Central wanting to purchase Marilyn Monroe’s Fragments, The Great Gatsby and Sloane Crosley’s two books of essays (which you may remember me writing about here). They had none of them in store. An hour later I was at home on Amazon, $70 poorer but immeasurably happier that four brand new books were on their way to me.

Case made the case (haha!) for the experience of shopping at a bookstore, but Flynn countered with the presumption that people who shop online probably already belong to an online community, and thus their experience at an online bookstore is just as valid and important as at a physical one.

As the owner of her own bookshop, Perkin asserted that she just can’t compete with free shipping and the iPhone app Shazam, which allows users to record a piece of music, to which the app generates the full details of and where you can buy it online.

But independent bookstores compete on service, not price. Perkin relayed the example of running out of Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals recipe book and being told that the next shipment wouldn’t be for awhile as it was, and is, a very popular title. She was forced to buy copies of the book on the Book Depository at her own expense, and provide them to her customers who had already committed to the title via pre-sale. Now that is service!

Flynn countered that whether we like it or not, e-readers have hijacked traditional forms of reading, but based on a show of hands, not one person at the Wheeler Centre that night owned or read books on an e-reader.

On a side note, I will be visiting the best second-hand bookstore I’ve ever been to over the weekend, and there’ll be more to come on that next week.

Related: “Who the Bloody Hell Are We?”: The Sentimental Bloke at the Wheeler Centre.

The Ten Books I Wanted to Read This Year But Didn’t.

All Eyes on Marilyn.

Images via Crunch Gear, TS Bookshop, Lance Wiggs.

Whipped Cream Feminism: The Underlying Message in Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” Video.

I’d been wanting to break out a whipped cream bra for a future Halloween, but seeing as I’ve already got my costumes planned for the next five years, my friend April suggested I bust it out (get it?) for our friend Eddie’s bad taste themed birthday this past weekend, thus keeping it relevant.

I was enormously nervous about it, as it’s probably one of the most attention-seeking costumes I’ve ever worn—and that’s saying something! Also, the party was held at a pub in Melbourne Central! Luckily, I had the company of Joel Monaghan to share the humiliation with.

But, there was a message behind the madness; well, several actually. Allow me to elaborate.

#1. Though not related to the underlying message of Katy Perry’s video, in essence, my costume was totes an oxymoron. Because although it was derived from the worst taste film clip of the year, thus making it perfect bad taste party fodder, the costume actually tasted good (as photos of partygoers sampling my cans will attest).

#2. While “California Gurls” is highly sexualised, Perry is literally using her sexuality as a weapon: taking down Snoop Dogg’s “troop of gangsta gummis” with her whipped cream cans. In some ways, she is subverting the common perception of woman as sex object and turning her into a subject. It’s just heavily sugar coated and therefore easy to miss.

#3. As someone who is not such a fan of Perry’s (love her music; hate her), I tend to lean more towards shock value and über-sexuality as the means behind the video as opposed to the above argument.

Laura Money mentions in her guest post “On Stripping” the notion of “lipstick feminists”; I would argue that Perry is very much the “lipstick feminist”, though in this case she could be labelled a “whipped cream feminist”; using her sexuality purely for entertainment and shock value—and thus record sales and YouTube views.

So, Perry’s video and my costume were both making a statement; the former shock value and the latter best (worst?) bad taste costume (yes, I did win the unofficial vote!). While I tried to incorporate the above points into my costume to make a statement on feminism and to provide blog ammo, somehow I’m not so sure Perry did the same thing…

Related: Bad Taste Foxymorons.

The Witching Hour: Halloween/My Birthday at Witches in Britches Cabaret.

On Stripping.

’Tis the Season…

Beauty & the Bestiality.

Elsewhere: [SodaHead] Is Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” Video Exploitation or Feminism?