The owner of a “self-service” bookstore in Taipei said she is interested in how readers interact with books in the absence of staff.
Wu Ya-hui (吳雅慧), the second-generation owner of Rare Books (舊香居), which specializes in antiquarian books, opened the store on Xinhai Road in July last year as an experiment.
Stocked with more than 20,000 secondhand books, a sign on one wall tells customers how to pay. The books are priced at either NT$50 or NT$100, with the exception of special titles. Payment is cash only.
Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times
Rare Books, which she has run with her father for many years, has become a popular tourist attraction, but Wu said she was nervous about opening a self-service bookstore.
“I did not know if this [concept] was feasible,” she said. “But the challenge itself was fun and interesting, and we are very optimistic about human nature.”
Wu said she believes the simply decorated bookstore would attract book lovers.
Many of Rare Books’ old customers, who have more books than their homes can hold, brought boxes of books to the store in the hopes that they could be sold, she said.
Out-of-print antique books were put in Rare Books’ stock, while the rest were kept in storage, she said.
Her family did not want the books to be “lonely,” so they decided to open a self-service bookstore to give people a chance to buy a book they want to read at an affordable price, she said.
While others in the book business were surprised by the approach, Wu said she believes bookstores should return to their original purposes, with books being used as much as possible.
Instead of keeping books on bookshelves or stacked in storage, they might as well be put into the hands of readers, she said.
The rent for the self-service shop is NT$60,000 per month, but that does not include utilities, security system costs and other fees, she said.
However, she is not trying to make a profit, she just hopes the sales will cover the rent, she said.
That means the store just needs to sell 600 books, at NT$100 each, to make the rent, she said.
Since Rare Books has a good reputation for selecting books, many people bought boxes of books from the self-service store after it opened.
Books at the self-service store range from philosophy books published 30 years ago to young adult literature and volumes by food writer Tang Lu-sun (唐魯孫).
A writer who lives close to the store treats the bookstore as their “private library” when they need material, Wu said.
The store has already formed its own “ecosystem,” as customers can discuss books with others or quietly “search for treasures” in the shelves, she said.
At the beginning of the month, Wu launched another “experiment,” keeping the self-service store open all day and all night on Friday and Saturday.
She tested the new hours on Dec. 31, and the result was that readers marked the start of a new year with a book, she said.
Unknown adventures make life interesting, so if she can bring books into people’s lives, then “why not,” she said.
THE CHINA CONNECTION: As Beijing’s aggression increases, so does Taiwanese consciousness, making a new constitution imperative, Hsu Wei-chun said If the nation is to ratify a new constitution, it must first end any illusions about the current document’s relevance to Taiwan, an academic told a forum in Taipei yesterday. For the constitutional revisionist movement to succeed, it needs public enthusiasm, the right timing and a clear plan of action, Chung Yuan Christian University associate professor Hsu Wei-chun (徐偉群) told attendees at the event titled “Imagining a New Constitution for a New Era,” which was organized by the National Taiwan University Graduate Student Association. The Constitution exists under the “one China” framework and has little relevance to Taiwan, Hsu said, adding that
IDENTITY: The time is right to press on with a referendum, as the nation has heightened visibility and support in the global community, the Taiwan United Nations Alliance said The Taiwan United Nations Alliance yesterday said that it is considering launching a petition for a referendum proposal to have the nation join the UN under the name “Taiwan.” Alliance chairman Twu Shiing-jer (涂醒哲) was joined at a news conference in Taipei by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Hsiu-fang (黃秀芳) and leaders of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan and civic organizations. They said that it is the right time for a petition because Taiwan’s visibility on the world stage has increased, as it has been praised for its success in containing its COVID-19 outbreak and for helping other countries by sharing
An advertisement displayed in the corridor of the underground Taipei City Mall has caused contention online with social media users saying that it depicts Taiwanese bears as servants of Chinese pandas. The advertisement — which imitates the style of an ancient Chinese painting, but replaces people with bears — shows a scene in imperial China, with Formosan black bears laboring, while pandas relax and enjoy beverages. “The development of the tourism industry is important, but this type of targeted advertising is extremely disrespectful — and it makes people uncomfortable,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Chen E-jun (陳怡君) said. The advertisement, under
‘LONG OVERDUE’: The Republic of China is a military-political regime of the KMT that illegally occupied Taiwan, Taiwan Republic Office director Chilly Chen said Independence advocates yesterday at a rally called on government leaders to “rectify” the nation’s official name as “Taiwan” as they denounced Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu’s (吳釗燮) remark of “not seeking formal ties with the US” during a media interview. Organized by Taiwan Republic Office director Chilly Chen (陳峻涵), the advocates chanted slogans, such as “Taiwan is not the Republic of China [ROC],” and held a banner that read: “If the nation’s title is not corrected as ‘Taiwan,’ how can it fully establish diplomatic relations with the US?” as they gathered outside Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei at