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For the love of literature

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On a global scale the number of bookshops are steadily on the decline. Competition with online retailing giants has forced many to close or revamp the way they operate in order to survive. The experience of going to a bookshop and browsing the shelves for a new novel is something that may die out if we don’t support them.  

However, with research demonstrating a decrease in the number of books read per capita it may seem that reading has gone out of fashion. Many people admit that while they were at school or college they would never read a book recreationally- it was associated with studying for exams and rendered a chore rather than a pastime. Now that books are more readily available with the arrival of e-readers is it possible to suggest that this new technology is inspiring more to get stuck into reading?  Or are they having a negative impact?

In this article, we will explore the importance of literature as well as discussing the different ways to engage with it.  We will also take a look at some trendy places in Beijing that you can buy or borrow books in a relaxed yet vibrant atmosphere. 

Getting lost in a good novel or an interesting factual book possesses the power to transport us through the barriers of time and space. For many it is the perfect way to escape from the stress of life and retreat to the realms of another world.  Research suggests that reading paper or hard-back books rather than e-books is more likely to reduce stress.  If we use computers a lot at work and watch television in the evenings the bright white light makes it harder for us to sleep at night and can dry our eyes out.  The same idea applies to reading on electronic devices.

 Reading teaches us many things. It enriches our vocabulary, increases our knowledge and our capacity for empathy. This is why it is particularly important for those in their formative years. However, that’s not to say there are no benefits for keeping up reading habits throughout all stages of life.  Reading provides mental stimulation and keeps the brain active which reduces the chance of dementia.  The more we read, the more knowledge we accumulate.  This knowledge smites ignorance and can be used to make the world a better place. 

There has always been something exciting about going into a bookshop and searching for the next book you want to read. Bookshops are important because they provide us with a chance to socially interact with others and meet like-minded people in an inclusive environment.

Page One has 5 stores in China and boasts a great range of  excellent English and Chinese language books as well as selection of gifts and stationery items. Speaking with a member of staff named Jackie at the Indigo Mall Branch about the rise of e-books and online retailing she said, ‘People still enjoy reading paper books. Sometimes it is just the expense- it can be cheaper to download or buy online. I do think e-books and the internet has hurt bookshops but we are still very busy at weekends and in the evenings. People enjoy coming to the bookshop for the experience.’

Another venue definitely worth checking out is The Bookworm which has 3 stores in China.  The branch I visited was conveniently located on Nan Sanlitun Road in the Chaoyang District in Beijing close to the bustle and hive of activity in Sanlitun.  With approximately 3,000 members it successfully operates a lending library, a shop, café, bar and restaurant as well as organising various literary, cultural and community events.  It provides books in English as well as Chinese Language books which focus on contemporary Western writers in translation and new emerging Chinese writers.  Instead of just buying a book online or downloading it onto an e-reader venues like The Bookworm encourage you to share your experience with other people. With plenty of events to attend, relaxing acoustic music in the background and a rooftop bar it is a wonderful place to experience the joy of reading and discover new books. At The Bookworm, it is clear that reading has not gone out of fashion!

In an exclusive interview with MetroStyle, Peter Goff, General Manager of The Bookworm, told us that ‘Everyone is mourning the loss of the bookshop but the only way to keep it alive is to support it.  Sometimes people have the audacity to come in and use the free Wi-Fi to buy the books online- books they see on our shelves. In the past, approximately 70% revenue came from books and 30% from food but now it’s the other way around.  I’m not anti-technology so I don’t think e-books will be the killer of bookshops. I appreciate the convenience of them because I live in China. If people are reading more that’s great, it doesn’t matter if half comes from tangible books and half are from digital downloads.’ 

Reading has many benefits and it doesn’t matter how we do it- as long as we are reading and keeping our minds active.  We need to preserve an important part of our culture and heritage or one day future generations will never have the opportunity to experience the wonder and joy to be found in a bookshop. So for the love of literature, get down to your local bookshop, get reading, share your knowledge and help to make the world a better place. 

For more information visit www.pageonegroup.com or http://beijingbookworm.com/ for upcoming events. 

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