Book lovers will rejoice as two bookstore chains, Commercial Press and newcomer Eslite, lock horns in Causeway Bay.
Taiwanese heavyweight Eslite will open its first store in Hong Kong at Hysan Place, a new development on Hennessy Road opposite the Sogo department store, in mid-August.
Covering 41,000 square feet, the mega outlet - which occupies three floors of its mall - will be the biggest bookstore in town. The chain plans to open five more branches in the city over the next five years.
In the face of this competition, publisher-retailer Commercial Press announced yesterday it would open its renovated store in Yee Wo Street, just down the road from Hysan Place, on August 3.
Covering 10,000 square feet, the four-storey store will carry more titles than before, especially English-language books, the chain's assistant general manager, Anita Wan, said. 'The old store dedicated half a floor to English books. In the new one they will occupy the whole ground floor.'
The catalogue of Chinese books would increase by one-third and the store would be better organised, she said. 'Children's books will be on the third floor, so adults will be able to read in a quieter environment on other floors,' Wan said.
This arrangement was made possible when Commercial Press earlier this year switched sales of textbooks and reference books to another branch in Causeway Bay devoted to educational materials.
'To stay competitive in the race, we have to be a professional bookseller,' said Dr Steven Luk, the director, general manager and chief editor of Commercial Press. 'The most important thing is to maintain a good collection of books.'
The company, which has 23 outlets, has 80,000 books in its catalogue, compared to Eslite's 100,000.
But Luk remained optimistic that his store would maintain a strong presence with books published for local readers. 'Eslite may buy the books we publish, too,' he added.
It remained unclear whether Eslite's mega store would draw more readers to the district, benefiting the book trade as a whole, he said.
Luk said the opening of Dymocks and two Singaporean chains - Page One and Popular - had had little impact on Commercial Press. In the first half of this year, the chain continued to see single-digit growth in sales.
Luk said rising rents and labour costs were bigger constraints than new competitors. Despite booming sales in busy districts, it was hard to find suitable sites for expansion.
Eslite has this many branches in Taiwan, one children's bookstore and four music stores. It has 100,000 titles