The first 24-hour bookstore in Changsha, Hunan province. [Photo/China Daily]
A trend of 24-hour bookstores has emerged in the country since last summer, when Beijing shop Sanlian started to keep its doors open all the time.
While the traditional book business has been hit in many countries owing to the rise of e-reading, such old establishments with new thinking are seemingly growing in China.
There are more than 14 round-the-clock bookstores in a few Chinese cities and more are likely to open this year, according to statistics released by an association of 24-hour bookstores.
A case in point is Taskin, the first 24-hour bookstore in Changsha in Hunan province. The city in Central China is dubbed as the “hub of recreation” in China.
“People living in Changsha usually go to karaoke bars, nightclubs and play mahjong after work,” says Long Guxin, the 47-year-old founder of Taskin. “But with more young people pouring into the city, they need to read to relax their minds at night after a busy daytime schedule.”
Long himself has been reading books at night for years, a habit he picked up while starting his business in Shenzhen in South China’s Guangdong province.
In 2006, he used to make night visits to Shenzhen Central bookstore that was the first of its kind in China.
About the size of eight basketball fields, Long’s 3,200-square-meter bookshop is in the basement of a shopping center. Taskin has a coffee area, separate reading rooms, display area, tea houses and spaces for children to play.
Since 2006, the Taskin Group has invested about 40 million yuan ($6.50 million) in the bookshop. Long visited lots of bookstores at home and abroad. Every time he went to the United States and Canada, he would first visit local bookshops, he says.
But some of the bookstores he visited in Western countries have closed down in the past few years, Long says.
“It’s a global trend that traditional bookstores are being forced to shut down by their digital rivals,” he says.
He calls Taskin the “future bookstore” and adds that such places aren’t just spots for bookworms and night owls. It’s a lifestyle, a place that combines culture and innovation, and provides a social platform for young people to exchange ideas and views.
Readers are reading in the bookstore. [Photo/China Daily]
The layout and function of Taskin reminds people of Taiwan-based Eslite Bookstore, a famous bookstore chain that opened its 24-hour shop in Taipei in 1989 and has since expanded to Shanghai, and Suzhou in East China’s Jiangsu province.
More than half of the books sold in Taskin are imported and focuses on subjects like art, design, culture and management.
Other than a coffee area, there’s a place where customers can drink wine while reading books. It even offers four studies where readers can spend their nights reading without being disturbed by anyone.
Long says the bookstore’s target customers are young professionals from fields such as culture, design and technology since it is located in a building that’s surrounded by offices.
These young professionals are usually busy during the day and eager to read at night to acquire new knowledge. Long was inspired to keep his bookstore open all the time in a bid to keep young readers happy.
During the 15 days since Taskin’s opening in June, Long himself often visited it in the early hours and found 20 to 30 readers there.
In the face of the technological explosion in China, the most common question he gets asked is: “How long will your bookstore go on?”
“I will run it for at least 10 years,” says Long.
Earlier this month, Guangzhou in Guangdong province, opened its third 24-hour bookstore and Beijing will add another at a tourist spot in Di’anmen by the end of the month.