Three Decades of Imprints

In 1984, a bookshop opened its doors on Hindley St, joining what Jason Lake remembers as a diverse retail precinct.

In 1984, a bookshop opened its doors on Hindley St, joining what Jason Lake remembers as a diverse retail precinct.

Lake, who began working at the shop in 1993, never believed that 20 years on he would still be behind the counter. Now owner of the shop, Lake takes time between chatting with familiar customers and speaking to The Adelaide Review about the 30-year anniversary the store and the magazine share. Cozy Imprints, with its rich dark shelves and deep turquoise walls, is a respite from the bustle and surge on the street outside. Despite their “little gem among the detritus” being welcomed with delighted surprise by locals and tourists alike, Lake explains that a bookshop on Hindley St shouldn’t be too much of a shock. “Every time we talk about Hindley St, it’s like talking about the Wild West, and it’s just not,” he says. “What is not promoted enough about this end of town is that, on Hindley St, we have Arts SA – we have a major arts funding body on this street – we have the symphony orchestra on this street. “There’s a lot of positives about this end of town,” Lake continues. “I’d love to see people talk differently about Hindley St, talk up its past; it has an amazing history, this street, but they only think about the last person who got coward punched. It’s a nighttime street! But that negates the validity of its daytime trade as well.” Imprints also faces the small challenge of a sedentary population that sometimes struggles to venture beyond its familiar pockets in the Square Mile we call home. “As an example,” Lake says with a bemused, resigned look, “15 years ago, we moved 80 metres down the road. Last Christmas, a customer came in, saying, ‘I haven’t been down here since you moved!’” The doom and gloom that stalks tales of Hindley St are beginning to loom over the book industry, too. With e-publishing and internet “monsters” Amazon and The Book Depository chewing into their business, Lake admits that these last five years have been the hardest. Having a “curated” selection of books that he and fellow employees know extremely well gives them the edge to survive. But from his first days at Imprints – reading Patrick Suskind’s Perfume – to today – finally cracking the pages of Margaret Atwood’s Oryx & Crake – the difficulty of the business side of things has done nothing to dull his passion for words. Lake recalls his first encounter with the work of Paul Auster, when he was working at Third World Bookshop, a once-upon-a-time 24-hour bookstore. “It was a couple of doors up [from Imprints] – it’s a massage parlour now – but when I worked there, I did the 6pm to midnight shift. I had a friend bring me a cup of coffee, a piece of dope cake and this Paul Auster novel, and – I don’t condone doing drugs on the job, but – it was one of my formative literary experiences.” Since then, Lake has encountered the elusive Donna Tartt, snaring a signed copy of The Secret History in one of her rare public outings. He had a “weak at the knees” “fanboy” moment in the presence of Ron Rash, and he met the famed Paul Auster. As for the future, Lake is out of predictions. “I wish I could throw those runes or a crystal ball to see what’s going to go on, but I don’t know what the publishing world will look like,” he says. “I don’t think the book will ever die. It’ll be here until the end of time.”

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