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Help bookstores in Singapore survive

Author and storyteller Jumaini Ariff at the launch of the #BuySingLit campaign last week. The event from Feb 24 to 26 aims to promote the purchase of local literary works in print form.
Author and storyteller Jumaini Ariff at the launch of the #BuySingLit campaign last week. The event from Feb 24 to 26 aims to promote the purchase of local literary works in print form.ST FILE PHOTO

I refer to Olivia Ho's article (Bookstores That Have Stood The Test Of Time, Sunday Life, Feb 5) on the book about Singapore's bookstores, Passage Of Time: Singapore Bookstore Stories 1881-2016.

It is sad to witness the demise of so many bookstores here over the years. Much of this is due to the rise of e-books as more readers migrate to digital devices.

But there is possibly light on the horizon for the brick-and-mortar bookstore.

In 2015, e-book sales in the United States, the world's largest book market, fell by 14 per cent, according to the Association of American Publishers. This was in tandem with increased sales of print books that year.

The decline in e-book sales continued last year, while sales of print books increased by 3.3 per cent, according to Bloomberg View.

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In the US, the number of bookstores has been steadily increasing in the past few years, according to the American Booksellers Association.

Locally, I do not know of any bookstore that has opened recently, but the biggest bookstore here, Kinokuniya in Ngee Ann City, is set to open an extended space with a new shopfront this quarter.

The increasing popularity of print books will serve as an impetus for more bookstores to open here, but issues of high overheads and competition from book-peddling websites remain. In fact, online retail giant Amazon is set to enter the local market this quarter.

 

Perhaps our government agencies can get more involved. The #BuySingLit campaign, organised by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and funded by the National Arts Council, is a good start.

Happening from Feb 24 to 26, this one-off event aims to promote the purchase of local literary works in print form. It will indirectly draw attention to the bookstores selling them.

Is it too much to wish for consistent funding, in some way or other, of worthy bookstores - these "cathedrals of the human spirit", as author Forrest Church wrote?

Whether there will be a renaissance in bookstores here remains to be seen. One can only hope.

Colin Lim


For more information, go to buysinglit.sg/

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 11, 2017, with the headline 'Help bookstores in Singapore survive'. Print Edition | Subscribe