New movement to get Singaporeans to buy local books

Author and storyteller Jumaini Ariff performing a snippet of a story at the media launch of #BuySingLit, at City Book Room on Feb 2, 2017.
Author and storyteller Jumaini Ariff performing a snippet of a story at the media launch of #BuySingLit, at City Book Room on Feb 2, 2017. ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN
Guitarist Gladwin Pantastico and Aaron Lee performing at the media launch of #BuySingLit, at City Book Room on Feb 2, 2017.
Guitarist Gladwin Pantastico and Aaron Lee performing at the media launch of #BuySingLit, at City Book Room on Feb 2, 2017. ST PHOTO: NIVASH JOYVIN

SINGAPORE - Publishers, distributors and bookstores are coming together in a new movement to get Singaporeans to buy more local literature.

The #BuySingLit campaign, which will feature a weekend of islandwide literary activities from Feb 24 to 26, was launched on Thursday (Feb 02).

The 42 programmes include book fairs featuring local titles, literary-themed walking tours, scavenger hunts and storytelling sessions for children.

The industry-led movement is organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and funded by the National Arts Council(NAC).

It involves more than 30 partners, including local publishers such as Epigram, Pustaka Nasional and Lingzi Media, distributors such as Pansing and MPH, and bookstores such as BooksActually and Books Kinokuniya.

Among the works specially commissioned for the campaign is a set of four Ticket Books, one for each official language of Singapore.

 

These pocket-sized books feature new stories and poems by authors such as Balli Kaur Jaswal, Xi Ni Er, and Chempaka Aizim. Each book will be sold at $15 in major bookstores from Feb 24, and comes with a NETS FlashPay card tucked into a sleeve to be used on public transport. The card will contain a value of $5.

Book fairs for local titles will also be held across the island, from a BooksActually festival at Gillman Barracks, to a three-day fair at Raffles City Shopping Centre by MPH.

Up for grabs is $25,000 worth of $10 book vouchers, which members of the public can get through taking part in the activities. These can be redeemed at participating bookstores until May 31.

The movement comes in the wake of a national survey by the NAC in 2015, in which three-quarters of respondents said they had not read a literary book by a Singaporean writer before. Of this group, 44 per cent said they had not been exposed to, or were unaware of, Singaporean literary works.

Book Council deputy director Kenneth Quek calls the campaign the first "concerted effort in which all parts of the industry have come together" to promote books by local writers.

While existing events such as the annual Singapore Writers Festival cater to people who are already converted bookworms, he adds, #BuySingLit aims to raise awareness on a broader public scale. "We want to go out there and help people find their Singapore story."

Publishers say they experience great difficulty attracting local readership. "Singaporeans prefer international titles and self-help books," says Ms Eliza Teoh, the founder of children's publisher Bubbly Books.

BooksActually founder Kenny Leck adds, however, that publishers and bookstores also need to work harder to reach readers. "We don't point fingers enough at ourselves. We need to do better at marketing our books in this time of social media," he says.

For more information, go to https://buysinglit.sg/