Came across this article and I feel the urge to post, and perhaps shed tears in between.
The article “Used books losing out at Chowrasta Bazaar” by Looi Sue-Chern in The Malaysian Insider has raised a question not many of us willing to take time to think about: what do we do with all the old reading materials?
I am always buying books, and I do have a problem of storage. Yet I cannot bring myself to follow Hercule Poirot online via the machine, so naturally I have at least thirty of those Agatha Christie books among the sea of books in my library. I read most of my books more than once and I store them nicely. I share them with few people whom I trust. But what if you don’t read them again or share them? Do you push them away?
Choose and Book wrote about the used bookstalls in Chowrasta Bazaar and in her words:
You have just got to visit the Chowrasta Market second-hand bookstall if you are in Penang. Stacked from floor to ceiling in every crook and cranny are books, books and more books. There is only enough space in between the thousands of books to walk single-file. My, what a wonderful sight to behold.
It is great to hear others who appreciate the little fine things still around us, yet I think we are not giving them enough attention and to help them continue.
I noticed that Malaysians in general prefer to buy new books instead of used books. Books must come in glossy and pretty covers. Children nowadays are so choosy, prefer to have everything new and of the latest trend, that including reading materials. I have seen kids who are so poor that even used books means so much to them. It makes me cry when I see the hunger in their eyes.
True that I don’t see many people around me treasure and take care of their books, and perhaps that is why the rest are discouraged to buy used books. Torn and ill-treated. It then leads to the problem of too many used books going nowhere. Secondhand book sellers at Chowrasta Bazaar are slowly losing their edge, because turn out that only poor college students are still looking for used books. Everybody else need a new cover for the same Jane Austen title.
I’m a big fan of used books. Every year I do my pilgrimage trip to Taiwan with an empty luggage, and come back with 30kg worth of books, most of them used books that looks absolutely new. Some of the classic Chinese titles cost as little as RM8. I don’t know how to describe the feeling with words. Other days I go around bazaar and visit the uncles who have business books neatly displayed on the stall table.
While we think of ways to save the sellers at Chowrasta Bazaar, maybe we can first learn to treat books with respect and take care of them. Next we can exchange books or buy used books from friends. Go to the flea market or Sunday bazaar around you, be patient and look at those used books, you will surely find something that is interesting, and best of all, half the price of those on retail shelves.
A friend of mine just started the Liberated Library group and I think it is a fantastic way to encourage book sharing locally. Blog about that soon!