Sat, Apr 18, 2009 - Page 16 News List

Old books in a new light

Dixiajie on Yongkang Street holds a treasure trove of secondhand books, vinyl records, CDs, DVDs and knickknacks

By Catherine Shu  /  STAFF REPORTER

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Earth Day is right around the corner and avid readers can celebrate by adopting a used book (or 10). Dixiajie (地下階) bookstore, which marks its 10th anniversary this year, sells secondhand books, CDs, DVDs, magazines, vinyl records and textbooks in its cavernous underground store on Yongkang Street.

Dixiajie — which operates a second location called Moungar (莽葛拾遺) near Longshan Temple — was founded to save books and other forms of media from the landfill. A giant photograph of a garbage dump hangs in the store as a reminder of its mission. “Books are more than just a bunch of words. They are a record of how people lived during a certain period of time, so it’s a shame to just throw them away,” says manager Felicia Chang (張雅婷).

The store buys entire estates of books — and often they pick up more than just that. Browsing Dixiajie is like spending the day at the flea market or going through the attic of an eccentric older relative. Oil paintings representing different genres and subject matter are stacked against shelves filled with vintage reference books. Oddments, including a rattan peacock-back chair and a giant, curving piece of driftwood, lurk in every corner. Old typewriters, a Yashica twin-lens reflex camera, retro dinosaur toys, crystal balls, porcelain figures and other bric-a-brac — most of which are for sale — add to the store’s eclectic charm.


SURGE OF INTEREST

While secondhand booksellers in the US and the UK are giving stores like Barnes and Noble and Borders a run for their money, used books are less popular in Taiwan, says Chang. But a steady customer base of retro lovers, many of whom come to Dixiajie to sift through its large collection of vinyl records, has kept the store in business over the past decade, and the faltering economy and current emphasis on green living has led to a new surge of interest in previously owned goods.

DIXIAJIE (地下階)

ADDRESS: B1, 11-4 Yongkang St,

Taipei City (台北市永康街11號之四 B1)

TELEPHONE: (02) 2392-3257

MOUNGAR (莽葛拾遺)

ADDRESS: 1F, 4, Ln 152, Guangzhou St, Taipei City (台北市廣州街152巷4號1F)

TELEPHONE: (02) 2336-2181

ON THE NET: www.rbc.idv.tw

YAHOO AUCTIONS WEB SITE:

tw.user.bid.yahoo.com/tw/user/dixiajie


“With money being tighter for a lot of people right now, more and more consumers are willing to take a look at secondhand merchandise,” says Chang. Most of Dixiajie’s CDs retail for less than NT$220, while books range from NT$30 for children’s paperbacks to NT$200 for longer novels and reference books. Selected manga series can be purchased for NT$100 per set.

Dixiajie’s best sellers include textbooks from students at nearby National Taiwan and National Taiwan Normal universities.

STAMPS AND STUDY AIDS

“In a lot of textbooks, the previous owner has already made notes and underlined the main points of the text, so it can be a study aid,” says Chang. “And sometimes people stamp their name seals on the flyleaf. It’s fun to see how many people have owned your book before and where it’s been.”

Staff buy books every day. People who want to unload 10 or more items can go directly to the shop; Dixiajie sends employees to look at collections of 50 or more items. The price of each item is determined by its condition and rarity, and sellers can opt to receive cash or exchange their books for store credit.

Dixiajie recently launched an online store on Yahoo Auctions (tw.user.bid.yahoo.com/tw/user/dixiajie) to reach customers outside of Taipei, and plans to eventually list its entire stock on the site. Chang hopes, however, that first-time customers will stop by the store.

“We want our customers to see shopping here as a treasure hunt,” says Chang. “If you come in with an open mind and don’t have a particular title in mind, chances are you’ll make some exciting discoveries.”

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