Literacy and bookstores

Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Issue 1208, Page 2
Word count: 618
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

How often do you read? I like reading different kinds of books and enjoy spending a couple of hours in bookshops. But I also have to admit that ever since I left the university and started working full-time, I don’t read as much as I used to because I just don’t have the energy to put into reading for more than 30 minutes after finishing work.

Still, I love wandering around bookshops and checking out what books are on the shelves from time to time.

One of the things that I keep complaining about in Macau is the lack of comprehensive bookshops in the city. I wish international bookstore chains set foot in Macau, which I sincerely believe will improve local people’s quality of life and could be a good way to make the city look more “diversified” and “culturally rich”.

Retail shopping in Macau nowadays is seemingly only about luxury and brand shopping. Fashion, cosmetics, jewellery, watches, bags, accessories, shoes or fine dining, locals and tourists can easily find them throughout the city. But what about shops as common as those selling books or CDs in a large variety?

There are of course quite a few large bookstores in Macau, but most of the books are in Chinese only and even if they do sell English books, the choices are limited and the latest novels aren’t always available.

I was disappointed to find out lately that the only shop that sold stationery as well as some English and Chinese books was no longer at The Venetian. I wonder what the reasons were that made the only bookstore unable to survive in such a big shopping area.

Last June in an interview with the Macau Library and Information Management Association, the director explained that besides expensive rents, the small population/market was another major reason that no bookstore chains were attracted to Macau. Yet, he did point out that unless the bookshop could make itself a local attraction for tourists, and also a place where parents could bring their children there to read and couples could spend some time there when going out on a date -– just like the famous Eslite Bookstore in Taiwan, no booksellers would be willing to invest in this city.

Nevertheless, I believe that one of the concerns is the small local demand that makes such business unprofitable. How often do we see people fetch out books (comics and textbooks don’t count) to read on the bus, in restaurants or in cafés? One may say bus rides in Macau are usually short and therefore things certainly aren’t the same when comparing with other countries where commuting is usually a long journey, but I also believe that if a person truly loves reading he or she will make use of every second of his or her free time to read, even if there are only 15 minutes until he/she has to get off the bus.

The Education and Youth Affairs Bureau announced in early December that the results of the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) – a worldwide evaluation of 15-year-old school pupils’ scholastic performance – showed that reading literacy performance in Macau was below satisfactory.

The public libraries, surprisingly, will be closed on public holidays. I still think it doesn’t make sense as I believe a lot more people, particularly students, would like to visit the libraries to read or do homework on days when they don’t need to go to work or school. The libraries, indeed, are a good place for parents and children to spend time together.

I honestly don’t want to cross the border to go to the “underground book city” every time I want to buy books that I like.


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