Win a book a month for life – the only problem in Hong Kong is finding space to store them

Upmarket London store is using the competition to raise its profile in the digital age as it expands with an outpost in the city

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 5:22pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 October, 2016, 8:36pm

It’s the sort of offer that Hong Kong bibliophiles will find hard to resist – the chance to win a life-long supply of hardback books courtesy of a lucky draw by Heywood Hill, the Queen’s bookshop in London.

But with locals having to squeeze into smaller and smaller homes – with some new flats literally the size of a large bookshelf – why would the prospect of housing a great many hefty volumes appeal to anyone here except for the wealthy reading class?

“Booklovers still fill their homes with books whether their homes are big or small. It will be true for people who really value books,” Heywood Hill manager Nicky Dunne said.

Bookseller Nicky Dunne recalls his time in ‘exotic’ Hong Kong and Myanmar

Dunne is helping the 80-year-old institute – owned by his father-in-law, the Duke of Devonshire – survive the digital age.

“As a piece of technology, a hardback is hard to beat. It is durable, it lasts a lifetime. That’s why they have survived,” he said.

Dunne was in town as co-organiser of an exhibition of Shakespeare’s First Folio, a volume of his collected works published in 1623, and to promote the bookshop in its first overseas outpost. Last year Heywood Hill installed a local representative in Hong Kong as the first step of its international expansion.

“Hong Kong, where there are many English-speaking anglophiles, is our experiment of running a satellite operation. We now have around 200 customers here using our subscription service – we pick a book for them at regular intervals based on their reading habits,” he said.

Dunne is familiar with the city having worked here at Clarkson Shipping.

Reading the entries is like being hit by a tidal wave of emotional and intellectual energy
Nicky Dunne

Entrants to the draw just need to name a favourite English-language book that was published after 1936 – the year the bookshop opened – and say why. Translated works are acceptable.

The online campaign – www.heywoodhill.com/competition – has received around 50,000 entries – mostly from Britain and the United States.

Writer Julian Barnes chose The Beginning of Spring by Penelope Fitzgerald, saying it was “her best (by a nose)”. Fellow British author William Boyd opted for Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, which he described as “unique, mind-boggling, hilarious”.

Dunne said: “Reading the entries is like being hit by a tidal wave of emotional and intellectual energy. It is astounding what people say about their favourite books. The most popular titles so far are 1984 by George Orwell and To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee.

“They received 800 nominations each. The most popular authors are J.K. Rowling and J.R.R. Tolkien.”

The winner of the draw will be sent a new hardback book, based on a consultation about their preferences, every month for life.

The deadline for entry is midnight UK time on October 31. Dunne stressed that the competition was purely based on luck and would not take into account the quality of what people said about a book.