Got an invitation card from Eslite, confirming that the Taiwanese bookstore company will have its third shop coming in January next year.
Hong Kong used to be taken over by few bookstore chains, with a few independent those located on the second or the third level of some buildings. In the independent bookstores, new books are always sold in a cheaper price, and there are a few, but not many, books only available there.
The Taiwanese Eslite does bring some changes to reading culture in Hong Kong. It also promotes lifestyle with rich reading habits and good design products. But this lifestyle can become a "taste" in which some people love it, while some may feel they do not fit into it and are not welcome to the shops.
I am not writing here to call for Eslite or other bookstores to make themselves welcome to all people, since it's not possible. Most importantly, can Hong Kong have more kinds of bookstores?
- Can we allow more bookstore chain after Eslite, especially those starting in our city?
- Can independent bookstores create more values other than selling books in lower price? Can they work more with their own communities, or sell some books which can never be seen in bookstore chains, say those with independently published?
I visited two independent bookstores during my recent Taiwan's trip. Size is not sufficient enough to compare the chain and the independent, while the latter allows more relationship with the communities nearby. The owners have strong views about reading, life, community and society. They make a bookshop as a place to communicate with residents, and residents can find it as a part of social life and understand self and world through it. Visitors can know more about the community through the bookstore, besides sightseeing and consumption.
I still did not see the similar kind of bookstores in Hong Kong. Some people said independent bookstores are not easy to sustain, but in order to survive, creating more values is a must. The social value stated above is one of the suggestions, while it can also be a kind of business opportunity. We shouldn't use "hard to survive" as an excuse to decline other possibilities. Rather, we need to seek more (new) ways to operate, and various bookstores can coexist.