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It has been said that a room without books is like a body without a soul.

But, after three decades of delighting Dunedin bookworms, the shelves at Scribes Second Hand Books will soon be bare.

The building that has housed the store since its inception, on the corner of St David St and Great King St, has been sold and the store has to clear out by December 31.

Staff member Bill Keane has been helping bibliophiles browse the packed shelves for about 12 years.

Before that he was a regular customer, buying first editions. That ultimately landed him the job.

Scribes staff member Bill Keane is preparing for Scribes’ doors to close after a 30-year tenure....
Scribes staff member Bill Keane is preparing for Scribes’ doors to close after a 30-year tenure. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY

He described the closure as the end of something special.

"It’s been a wonderful time here, and all our locals are here supporting us.

"It is a Dunedin institution."

But it would be too difficult to move somewhere else, so the store’s final chapter had begun.

A steady stream of customers came through the doors yesterday to snap up some final bargains and say their goodbyes.

That was going to be the hardest part, he said.

"People who are upset that the shop is closing down, that’s probably going to be the most difficult.

"It’ll be nice to see all those faces again but it will be terrible to see all those faces again, because we’re not going to be here after the new year."

Rather than steering customers away, he believed the rise of e-books had actually helped the store.

"They might start a book on technology and get sick of it, or they have an argument with their provider, or they love the book and they come in and buy a physical copy.

"We’re not even online."

Scribes owner Richard Tubbs, who has owned the store for 20 years, was pragmatic.

He said the closure was always a possibility, and he was close to retirement anyway.

"Folks have gone through far worse things this year. Let’s put it in perspective."


The loss of any good bookstore is a pity, but the loss of an institution and icon like Scribes is a damn shame - greatest respect and best wishes to all of the Scribes team from a fellow bookseller. People might think that their loss is our gain... but really the loss of Scribes is a big blow to the Dunedin book scene we all love - it is a cultural loss to us all.

There is an idea that some things should not be for sale. Business has a higher meta-physical imperative that it has chosen to ignore. Virtue has been castigated. One should not sell ones daughter, for example, despite what the hard nosed business man might think. A good businessman knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing. Chasing the Dunedin real estate leprechaun down dark rabbit holes is not wise. I liked Scribes. A quiet tragedy to see a good bookstore sacrificed for rate of return. We need to bring back Virtue, before we lose everything.

Virtue. As I recall, a principle of Civil Society, along with volunteering.