NEW EDITION owner Alan Sheardown is the living embodiment of the Belle and Sebastian song, Wrapped up in books.
Like a lot of the best merchants his job was once his passionate hobby, and he used to religiously browse in bookshops and read in cafes after work.
Eventually he took the literary plunge and managed a second-hand bookstore in Sydney and then Planet Books in Mount Lawley.
Sheardown bought New Edition in Fremantle in 2014, when it was in danger of going under after 27 years and the literary community pleaded with him to save it.
“New Edition is renowned around Australia; it’s an institution,” he says.
“I used to buy books from here when I was a teenager so I couldn’t let it die.”
“I own another bookstore [Crow Books] in Vic Park and I had no intention on becoming busy, but I couldn’t leave Fremantle without a bookshop.”
In a shrinking industry dominated by digital publications and online sellers like Amazon, New Edition is the torch bearer for the lost art of book curating.
Sheardown takes inspiration from second-hand book stores, and believes half the joy is browsing and stumbling upon hidden gems.
While he still has to pay the bills and recognises that commercial fiction is an important part of the shop, Sheardown spends a lot of time browsing catalogues from the US and England to find interesting titles, authors and publishers not commonly represented in Australia.
He pulls down an almost pocket sized novella published by New Directions. The cover is a pastoral painting, reminiscent of the romantics, and is by Cesar Aira, a famed Argentinian novelist.
“I love that book,” he says.
New Edition stocks a number of genres, spanning from standard fiction to the quirky and niche, such as tattoo, philosophy, science and lowbrow art.
He says the wide selection reflects not only his personal taste, but his employees’ and the community’s.
“Punters will bring their friends here and really feel like it’s their bookshop.There’s a few philosophy lecturers at Notre Dame so when they come in and buy a book by Oxford University Press I know to buy more as there’s a good chance others in their field will be interested.
Sheardown also stocks a generous selection of local authors and books published by Fremantle Press and UWA Publishing, believing that the bookshop is an ecosystem of authors, publishes and readers, who all need support.
New Edition also hosts book launches and events in collaboration with small businesses in Freo, featuring local, national and international authors, with the most recent featuring writers Kim Scott and Rusty Young.