Backing for bricks and mortar
2017-10-09, ZHANG KUN in Shanghai

Though they were once affected by competition from online merchants, brick-and-mortar bookstores are making a comeback thanks to government support, according to Peng Weiguo, deputy director of the Shanghai municipal administration of press and publication.

In 2012, Shanghai became the first city in China to introduce policies aimed at supporting and subsidizing physical bookshops. Two years later, the State administration of press and publication launched nationwide measures to help with the development of these businesses.

“All these policies, to a large degree, propelled the development of brick-and-mortar bookstores,” said Peng.

According to the annual forum on the innovation and development of physical bookstores which took place during the Shanghai Book Fair — held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center from Aug 16 to 22 — more than 20 new bookstores have opened in the city or will be opening this year.

In addition, more than 40 brick-and-mortar bookstores participated in the Shanghai Book Fair this year by becoming venues for reading events and book launches. Some bookshops also set up pavilions at the book fair to showcase their products.

In Shanghai, Zhongshu Ge bookstore in Reel Mall celebrated its first anniversary on Aug 18. Luo Song, the store manager, said that sales have been steady. Located at the heart of the bustling West Nanjing Road commercial area, Zhongshu Ge (“planting trees”) is a popular destination for young readers.

During the book fair, the store hosted reading events featuring You Touched Me, the latest novel by American Chinese author Yan Geling.

Apart from Zhongshu Ge bookstore, a large number of other boutique bookshops, each sporting a distinctive theme, have opened in Shanghai over the past few years. In addition to books, many of these shops also stock cultural products and have cafe areas where visitors can enjoy a cup of coffee while reading.

JIC Bookstore, which is situated in an old building by the Huangpu River in Hongkou district, even boasts a view of the Bund. The store is known for its collection of biographies.

Over at The Mix Place, a three-story bookshop on Hengshan Road in Xujiahui area, readers can find a large collection of art magazines. Both shops play an active role in the local cultural scene by regularly hosting lectures, panels and themed events.

Peng noted that Shanghai’s bookshops have developed a vibrant ecology featuring diverse styles and characteristics. He added that the management teams of these shops consist of talented people who are truly dedicated to the city’s cultural development.

A veteran in the publishing industry, the State-owned Xinhua Bookstore is celebrating its 80th birthday this year. During the Shanghai Book Fair, representatives of the Xinhua group — from Northeast China’s Heilongjiang province, Shenzhen in South China’s Guangdong province, Sichuan in the southwest, and East China’s Anhui province — shared their experience of reforming and developing physical bookstores.

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