The Magic of Books – Maleny Bookshop
Books have the power to open our minds, to take us on the wildest journey of discovery or allow our imagination to run free! Ingrid Nelson chats with owner of the oldest second hand bookstore in Maleny to unearth some of the magic they hold.
As soon as you step inside Maleny Bookshop, you can feel the history and knowledge that lies within the 14,000-odd books lining the shelves that are starting to strain under their weight.
The smell of the paper, the feel of the pages inside the classics, the character and charm of the old store, there is a real sense of nostalgia and comfort in this beautiful book store that has been part of Maleny’s history for more than 30 years.
It’s exactly what owners Ian and Harper Bailey had envisaged when they bought the store earlier this year. However, it was quite a serendipitous chain of events that brought them to the Sunshine Coast.
“It was always my wife’s dream to own a book store, particularly in Maleny,” Ian said. “We were living in the Lockyer Valley and she had been camping with a friend in Maleny and fell in love with it.
“We were just about to move into the Sky Tower in Brisbane when I saw a newspaper ad about a book shop for sale in Maleny, and I knew I had to buy it.”
Unfortunately, their plans were put on hold due to Covid, but the adventurous couple were determined to follow their dreams, no matter what.
“Covid put the brakes on our plans for a while, but I had committed to buying the business. Even though we could have pulled out and some people told us we shouldn’t buy a business during a pandemic, we knew it was the right decision,” says Ian.
Although Ian loved the history of the bookstore and has kept the layout and décor much the same as the previous owners, he knew he needed to bring the business into the modern age by cataloguing all of the books, which has transformed the way they operate.
“The store hadn’t been catalogued in 20-odd years, so if someone wanted a book, it could be anywhere. It took a couple of months just to get the hardware and software working and then five weeks working 14 hours a day to get it done,” says Ian.
“It was such a satisfying feeling getting to the end and then I realised I still had 3,000 more books at home to do,” laughs Ian.
But the hard work has certainly paid off, with Ian now able to find a book within seconds of a customer enquiry, saving both he and the customer hours of searching for a title.
“Before, I would take their name and number, wait until we closed and then spend hours looking for books that might have been sold during the day,” says Ian.
“Now, people can jump online and buy it, click and collect or call the store and I can find it in seconds.”
Passionate about giving back to the community, Ian also offers a 10 per cent discount to those who work or live in Maleny plus reward points they can covert to a gift voucher.
Primarily focused on non-fiction, Maleny Bookshop is a treasure trove of titles, including some rare books written more than 150 years ago. In fact, the oldest book in the store is a six-volume Bible from 1812!
“Out of the 50 book shelves, only seven are fictional and we have a rare shelf as well,” says Ian. “The Tom Sawyer book from 1896 is one of my favourites, although I will never sell it because I will probably never find another one. We had a first edition of Horton Hears a Who by Dr Seuss, when that sold I was so gutted.”
There is excitement in Ian’s voice as he talks about the magic of books and his passion to inspire others to read.
“Books open up our imaginations. George Martin who wrote Game of Thrones – once famously said ‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The person who never reads lives only one’. I think that is so true,” he said.
As an avid reader and researcher himself, Ian loves nothing more than educating people about different authors, often challenging their beliefs about books and opening their minds to consider reading something they may have otherwise ignored.
“I like challenging people’s attitudes. Steven King for example is often pigeonholed as a horror writer but he has written so much more,” says Ian. “Did you know he wrote Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Stand by Me? He has a huge volume of fantasy novels.”
When it comes to Ian’s favourite books, he can’t pinpoint only one title. However, he admits to having a soft spot for the more unusual reads that grab his and his customers’ attention.
“There are too many books to have a favourite. Books like How to Mow the Lawn or The Encyclopaedia of Candle Lighting are favourites. They are so wacky and people get a laugh from them.”
In a world where we are mostly glued to our screens, the Maleny Bookshop is proof that print is certainly not dead. In fact, the luxury of reading a book or magazine is valued even more these days.
And what better way to immerse yourself in the magic of books than one steeped in history?
“I love the idea of the history behind a second-hand book,” Ian said. “I often think, who has read it before me? Has it gone through the hands of some nefarious person? I get a little excited about it.”
Ian believes it was fate that led he and Harper to this charming old bookstore and I have no doubt the magic of these books will be preserved and enjoyed for many years to come.