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What Hong Kong can learn from China’s bookshop cafes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 5:40pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 May, 2018, 5:40pm

I am writing in response to the article, “China bookshops offer an old-school reading experience in the digital age” (May 28), about the resurgence of modern bricks-and-mortar bookshops in mainland China.

In the digital era, being tech-savvy seems to be the way to survive. Using a “dumbphone” on the street, you become the centre of ridicule; reading a novel in a train, you will probably hear whispers that you want to look scholarly and gain respect. It is no wonder that stalwart supporters of physical books feel dejected about the declining reading habits of Hongkongers.

China bookshops offer space to relax and read

However, there is hope. The recent debut of some modern bookselling giants in China has given reading a new look that is less stiff and dull. The refurbishment has made many reading novices swiftly cultivate a sense of attachment to books because of the promotion of a lifestyle: sipping coffee and savouring light meals while reading, and the encouragement of readers exchanging reflections, something that is uncommon or even banned in our city’s libraries and most bookshops.

Whether it is plausible to adopt such multi-functional design in Hong Kong’s existing bookstores does depend on the degree of our government’s advocacy of reading and people’s will to take it up as a pastime.

Cash rewards for bookshops in Chinese reading campaign

Hong Kong seems to find it exceptionally difficult to motivate residents, especially teenagers, to read. The biggest hindrance seems to be the present education system , as it underscores academic results over personal growth and well-rounded development. Public exam results are the ticket to university. How many students would pick up a novel instead of a textbook after long hours of schooling and exercise drilling ?

Natalie Mak, Diamond Hill