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Hong Kong economy

Much loved Hong Kong bookseller Ling Kee to close at end of year after 75 years in business

  • Established in 1943, the bookshop sold textbooks to generations of schoolchildren
  • The shop has announced a clearance sale at its outlets in Central and San Po Kong, with up to 90 per cent off stock
PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 9:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 November, 2018, 9:00am

One of Hong Kong’s oldest booksellers, Ling Kee Book Store, is turning to its final chapter, after 75 years in business.

In a post on its Facebook page, the bookshop announced an “honourable closure”, saying its branches would remain open until December 31. It also thanked its customers for their support over the years, and said there would be a clearance sale, with up to 90 per cent off stock.

The post did not give a reason for the closure.

A spokesman for the Ling Kee Publishing Group, which owns the bookshop, said it would not comment further. But he said: “It is not easy to run a bookshop nowadays. But it is only the bookselling business that will cease operating. The group’s other businesses will continue as usual.”

Reactions to the loss of yet another long-time bookshop on Ling Kee’s Facebook page were emotional. One Macau reader, Emily Fong, recalled a time when she passed by the bookstore during a visit in Hong Kong. “It was marvellous, I got some books and a Peppa [Pig] soft toy for my daughter. She loves it, still loves it. Thank you,” her message read.

Another, Eddy Hui, wrote: “Thank you for all these years!!”

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Ling Kee was established in Hong Kong in 1943. It currently has two branches, one in Central on Hong Kong Island and one in San Po Kong in Kowloon, selling textbooks from preschool to secondary level, as well as general books and children books in English and Chinese, magazines, greeting cards and stationery. It also operates as a textbook wholesaler for schools.

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A shift in reading habits among young people in recent decades has made bookshops face more difficult times
Tik Chi-yuen, Hong Kong Institute of Family Education

In addition to the bookshop, the Lee Kee Publishing Group also runs Unicorn Books, which publishes street maps and historical reference books in Chinese. The group also owns Ward Lock Educational and BLA Publishing in Britain.

Tik Chi-yuen, executive director of the Hong Kong Institute of Family Education said: “Ling Kee figures greatly in the collective memory of many Hongkongers of my age. When we were small, we usually went to Ling Kee to buy textbooks.

“A shift in reading habits among young people in recent decades has made bookshops face more difficult times. Some have changed their business mode to stay afloat. For example, the Eslite bookshop, it serves more as a fashionable culture spot for trendy people than a place that sells books. People go there to buy gifts or have coffee,” said Tik, referring to the Taiwanese bookshop chain.

News of the closure follows the exit of a number of bookshop chains from Hong Kong.

Two years ago, the Singaporean chain Page One closed its stores in Hong Kong, ending almost two decades of business in the city. In 2015, Australian chain Dymocks also ended its 15-year presence in Hong Kong. In each case, high rents were blamed for the closures.