horgan

Switch: Barbara and Tony Horgan are shifting their bookstore online.

Sydney bookseller Barbara Horgan wants to make it clear she is not quitting the book industry. She is simply migrating, along with many readers, online.

Uprooted one year ago from its home of 15 years in Norton Street, Leichhardt - by renovations to the cinema complex above it - Shearer's move to new premises has, alas, proved temporary. ''I'm 70 years old this year, what do you do? Sign a commercial lease for another five years?'' asks Horgan.

In Queen Street, Woollahra, Lesley McKay's Bookshop will close around the end of next month after 45 years trading in the eastern suburbs.

Once full of antique shops and art galleries, retailers able to afford the annual rents of $100,000 and higher along Queen St are mostly fashion houses, not bespoke booksellers. ''Greed is good in terms of landlords,'' says McKay, who started out in Double Bay in 1968, the year in which John Fowles' The Magus was a bestseller. She moved to Woollahra 18 years ago and shifted to her present courtyard location last year due to rising rent. ''They keep putting the rent up and, even to their loyal long-term tenants, they seem to have no commitment,'' she says.

''A bookshop is more than an ordinary retail establishment, it's much more than exchange of goods and money, it is a cultural meeting place and often the heart of a community.

''The economics of bookshops mean most owners work for nothing or very little.''

Shearer's opened its doors in Gordon 28 years ago and shifted to Leichhardt 16 years ago. It was named Independent Bookseller of the year in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Horgan's ''painful'' decision, taken with co-owner and husband Tony, had been complicated by family concerns. When a grandson was recently injured the Horgans didn't have enough staff to cover them so they could help out.

Shearer's will attempt to find a niche between Amazon and smaller Australian online retailers. ''We are not out of the book trade. Our new website is nearly ready to go live and I have lots of creative ideas to run it. I can't wait,'' she said.

Australian Booksellers Association spokesman Joel Becker said while it was sad that the Horgans had wound down their involvement in the industry, there had been eight new bookstores open in the Sydney area in the past 12 months.

Horgan is optimistic for the future of bookselling, and her decision should not, she says, be read as the industry's death knell. ''I think books will continue to sell.''