#BuySingLit weekend drive

Islandwide activities to promote Singaporean literature will include book fairs, walking tours and storytelling sessions

Poet Aaron Lee (above, right) performing at the launch of the #BuySingLit campaign, accompanied by guitarist Gladwin Pantastico. ST PHOTOS: NIVASH JOYVIN
Author and storyteller Jumaini Ariff (above) gave a preview of a Malay storytelling session for children that she will give during the campaign. ST PHOTOS: NIVASH JOYVIN

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 yesterday.

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

The movement 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.

It is coordinated by the National Book Development Council of Singapore and funded by the National Arts Council (NAC).

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 the public can get by 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.

National Book Development Council of Singapore 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, #BuySingLit aims to raise awareness on a broader scale.

"We want to go out there and help people find their Singapore story," he says.

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."

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

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 03, 2017, with the headline #BuySingLit weekend drive. Subscribe