Yangon’s streetside bookstores for book lovers

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By Jumper

 

Su Hlaing is looking at the streetside bookstores, mulling over what she should buy. She comes to Pansodan Road in Yangon’s central area where the secondhand book stalls are concentrated.
“Especially on weekends, I come here to buy a book at least or sometimes only for window shopping with my friends,” Su, a book lover told the Global New Light of Myanmar (GNLM).
Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city and economic hub, boasts of streetside used bookstores that offer various types of old books.
“The new Myanmar books are very expensive and I usually come to the secondhand bookstores. Sometimes, the recycled books are in quite a good condition. I keep in my mind like that reading more, paying less,” she continued.
A 27-year-old university demonstrator Su said, “My parents often told me to read books when I was in my childhood. They bought books depending on my age such as local comic books – Bo Bo and Shwethway (weekly). I also love spending my holidays reading comic books and children’s story books, which I borrow from a book rental store using my pocket money when I was young.”
Nowadays, book rental shops have almost disappeared. People with smartphones can access the PDF version of various books including Myanmar novels, magazines, and historical books.
“Although it is easy to find a book online that we want, I don’t like reading books on electronic devices. The taste of reading by holding books in our hands and holding electronic devices is different. I prefer print books. I like the smell of books. I felt I was the happiest person in the world when I went to a book rental shop in my childhood,” she continued.
She added that she finds a place to sit and read the books at the streetside used-book stores sometimes.
“The shop owners do not bear a grudge against our manners. They don’t say anything even when we read the books and do not buy them,” she said.
There are various monthly and weekly publications including novels on the local market. The prices seem to be beyond the means of most families to purchase.
“When I go to the supermarket or shopping centre, I see bookshelves filled with books for children. I sometimes pick them up and leave them back when I see the price tags,” said Hlaing Hlaing, who has one daughter.
“I want to buy when I see books that are appropriate for my seven-year-old daughter. If I buy two books at K3,000 each, it will cost K6,000. The cost is almost equal to my family’s daily expenses.”

 

“If we have the products (recycled books) in our hands, the sales are normal. But it becomes slack if we don’t have the books. We earn between K70,000 and K80,000 per day, sometimes K200,000.
The sales show an increase compared to the same period of last year.

She buys books for her daughter from street-side bookstores, which costs K500 or K1,000, instead.
The book transactions were good before the outbreak of COVID-19, said the owner of Soe Thant (Jack) secondhand bookstore.
He has been running his secondhand bookstore for over thirty years at the corner of Merchant Road and 37th Street in downtown Yangon.
“If we have the products (recycled books) in our hands, the sales are normal. But it becomes slack if we don’t have the books. We earn between K70,000 and K80,000 per day, sometimes K200,000. The sales show an increase compared to the same period of last year,” he added.
He said the librarians also make orders from them.
“The librarians purchase books at my bookstore. Sometimes, they give the book lists that they want to order. But sometimes, I myself select the proper books depending on the audience who will read. For example, we ask them whether they would buy for school libraries or the elderly in order to choose the types of books,” he told the GNLM.
Currently, the sales of children’s books are on the rise, he said.
“We also advertise the books which are available at my bookshop on Facebook,” he added.
The second-hand bookstores are a must-visit for book lovers in Yangon. They offer an affordable way to build up a personal library as well as a chance to grab the literary heritage at cheap prices.

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