Indie bookshop BooksActually to close physical store, move entirely online

BooksActually owner Kenny Leck announced that the store would go fully online, on Sept 13, 2020. PHOTO: THE BUSINESS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Independent bookshop BooksActually will be closing its Yong Siak Street store and moving entirely online.

The shop, which turns 15 this year, shut its brick-and-mortar store this year during the circuit breaker period and has not reopened its doors since. At midnight on Sunday (Sept 13), owner Kenny Leck announced that it would go fully online instead.

Mr Leck, 41, wrote on Facebook: "It is a new beginning for all of us... As horrible as the pandemic has been, it has also given BooksActually its 'Online Store Sea Legs'. After nearly half a year of being solely an online store, we are now ready to make it a reality."

He told The Straits Times that the Web store, which was expanded during the circuit breaker, is doing better than the physical store by about 10 to 20 per cent.

"We have more work ahead," he added, citing his ongoing push to convert the titles of BooksActually's publishing imprint Math Paper Press into hardback editions by the end of the year.

Mr Leck opened BooksActually in 2005 with then co-owner Karen Wai on the second floor of a Telok Ayer shophouse.

In 2009, he sold a three-room HDB flat left to him by his late mother and used the proceeds to set up a second bookstore in Club Street, which did not pan out.

The bookstore moved to its current location in Tiong Bahru in 2011, where it grew into the quaint literary haven that it is today, with its shelves of vintage knick-knacks, mystery book vending machine and three beloved cats, Cake, Pico and Lemon.

Mr Leck often wrangled with rising rents and once dreamed that BooksActually would be the first bookshop in Singapore to own its own building, to which end he had started a fund-raising campaign to raise $2 million for a permanent space.

Covid-19 has put paid to that dream for now, but he said that he plans to continue organising literary happenings when Singapore enters phase three of reopening, and that events it is known for hosting, such as the annual #BuySingLit street party, 24-Hour Bookstore and The World's Loneliest Bookstore pop-up, will return.

"Regardless of the uncertainties or vulnerabilities this year of change has imposed on all of us, one thing we know for sure is that the bookstore will be here for a very long time," he wrote on Facebook.

"Or at least where I am concerned, I am very certain that she, BooksActually, will continue to be your 'neighbourhood' bookstore long after I am gone."

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