Tue, Dec 30, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Bookstore closes after 100 years

TEXTBOOK HERITAGE The mainstay of the public education system, which provided books to schools around the country, has no role left to play

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

An employee of the Taiwan Bookstore clears its inventory of textbooks, which will be given away to schools nationwide within the next two months.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

The Taiwan Bookstore (台灣書店), which for decades monopolized the provision of elementary and secondary school textbooks, will fade into history, Education Minister Huang Jung-tsun (黃榮村) said yesterday.

Declining business and the need to trim government organizations spelt the end for the company, which is more than 100 years old. Copyright for elementary and secondary book titles will be available to commercial publishers, Huang said.

"The Taiwan Bookstore's logo printed on the back cover of textbooks is a common memory for everyone who has been educated in Taiwan," he said.

"It accompanied our students over the years as they grew up. The books the company published were the spiritual food for students," he said.

"The Taiwan Bookstore played a critical role in educating Taiwan and accomplished its mission, the success of which I believe will go down in history," he added.

Founded in the Japanese era and taken over by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration in 1945, the Taiwan Bookstore was the only company responsible for printing and distributing the textbooks used in the public school system.

Every September, when the school year began, the Taiwan Bookstore would distribute 50 million copies of nearly 300 titles to 3,700 schools in every corner of the country, including Kinmen and Matsu, according to company records.

But since 1994, in response to a trend toward diversification in education, the ministry gradually opened up the writing and printing of school textbooks to private firms.

Consequently, the annual turnover of NT$10 billion was shared among other companies, reducing Taiwan Bookstore's dominance and phasing it out of the market.

At one time there were calls to privatize the company, but this was vetoed after the ministry evaluated its competitiveness, concluding that its prospects were not promising.

Around 30 bookstore employees attended the farewell news conference held at the old warehouse where textbooks used to be shipped out every September. One employee, surnamed Chen (),said that many of her workmates did not participate in the news conference because it was just too sad for them.

"It's a pity that the store had to just disappear like this," Chen said, who was a saleswoman with the company for 10 years.

According to Wu Cheng-muh (吳正牧), who served as president of the bookstore for seven-and-a-half years, most employees would be laid off with attractive pensions, while about 20 appropriately qualified staff would be transferred to the ministry. All of the land, factories, warehouses and other buildings owned by the bookstore would be transferred to the National Property Bureau (國有財產局).

Wu recalled the days that workers used to stand on ladders, hurrying to arrange textbooks in stacks up to two-stories high, and sometimes being struck by falling piles of books.

"Every summer I had to visit several workers injured by books because of their hard work in the warehouse," Wu said, his eyes glistening.

"The bookstore made a great contribution to Taiwan's educa-tion," he said.

"The textbooks we published were not fancy but they were practical and informative," he said.

"We were proud of every employee that had the attitude that textbooks for schools around the country had to be shipped on time," he said.

"I believe the Taiwan Bookstore will not be a thing of the past but live on in everybody's minds. Hopefully the Taiwan Bookstore sign will be hung up again," he said.

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