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China's independent bookstore survives with members' help

CCTV.com

04-24-2014 07:27 BJT

The number of people buying books across China is steadily declining, which has led to more closures of traditional brick and mortar bookstores. But one independent bookstore in Tianjin has not only survived over the past 15 years, it’s actually seeing brisk business, thanks to the help of its loyal, avid readers.

It’s been a tough time for traditional books stores. When it comes to reading, internet companies are offering rock bottom prices for e-books, threatening paperbacks with extinction. Creating something unique seems to be the only way to survive.

"The charm of my book store centers on a life style. The expectation of finding a new book or meeting a new author. Or finding someone who’s just like you.” Bian Hong, owner of Tianze Bookstore, said.

Opened 15 years ago, Tianze book store has become famous among bookworms in Tianjin. Every book on the shelves has been selected by Bian or has been introduced to her by loyal customers and members of the bookstore.

But rising rents and razor thin profit margins, added with the unrelenting onslaught from online book sellers, have put independent bookstores like hers, on the verge of bankruptcy.

Bian’s bookstore would have gone out of business a long time ago, if it wasn’t for the help of her loyal members, and getting discounted rental space.

"Including the lay-out plan and interior decoration, members helped a lot. I don’t feel alone in the shop because the contributions of members is everywhere in this space.” Bian said.

Bian and her fellow readers find solace in opening a book. When reading in the shop, they feel more like friends.

The oldest member is an 88 year old professor from Nan Kai University.

Bian says she became so inspired by the elderly member, proving that there is no age limit on reading.

"Reading broadens my vision, and boosts my understanding of what others have accomplished. It’s an essential part of my life outside the lab.” Prof. Xiong Xingmei with Fudan University said.

Independent book stores across the nation have seen a more than 50% drop in customers in the past five years. These stores, which used to be the symbol of a city’s vitality, seemingly are slowly seeing their time come to an end.

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