To help highlight the importance of independent bookstores and their role in strengthening the cultural fabric of society, Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai met with eight bookstore operators on Sept. 25 and encouraged them to continue pursuing their dreams.
The eight bookstores around Taiwan, including Lifestyle Bookstore (晴耕雨讀小書院) in Taoyuan County, Dorothy Bookstore (桃樂絲童書坊) in Taichung City, and Yukuo Village Bookstore (雨果部落書坊) in Hualien County, are currently participants of a subsidy program established by the Ministry of Culture.
The Minister said she was glad to see many young people with dreams of operating independent bookstores. She imparted words of advice at the press conference, saying that they have to tend to their livelihood and economic survival first before gradually transforming their stores into local cultural hotspots.
The Ministry has included financial support for independent bookstores in its overarching policy for Taiwan’s publishing sector. Earlier this year, it unveiled a subsidy program known as the “The Bookstore of Your Dreams” to encourage young people to open their own bookstores back in their hometowns.
In addition to providing funding for independent bookstore owners to start shop, the Ministry has also formed an advisory group comprised of business and financial professionals to help improve the distinguishing features and quality of such establishments.
Among the subsidy recipients this year was Chiu Ching-tun, who runs the Weeping Lovegrass Teenager Bookstore (戀風草青少年書房) in Fengyuan, Taichung. Both Chiu and his wife wanted their son, a seventh grader, to maintain the habit of reading, so they opened the bookstore to promote reading among teenagers.
Dorothy Bookstore, also in Taichung, has attracted much attention from the media since its opening in August. The young owner, Chiang Ting-yun, said her family started the bookstore business because they were inspired by a televised speech from the Culture Minister.
Located in a 10-ping (33-square-meter) space, the family-owned store selling mainly children’s books is faring well so far. “We can sell between 100 and 200 books on Mondays and Tuesdays alone,” said Chiang. She hopes the bookstore can provide kids in her community with a friendly reading environment.
Chen Long-hao, a veteran bookstore owner who runs Tonsan Bookstore in Taipei, was also at the event to share his experience and urged his fellow owners to find real niches for their stores.
The Ministry will continue to track the development of these newly-opened independent bookstores and help them become sustainable operations by integrating the counseling of such organizations as the Taiwan Association for Independent Bookshop Culture, said the Minister.
Independent bookstores are not only part of publishing distribution channels, “they also sow the seeds of public appreciation for art,” said Minister Lung. She encouraged these bookstores to attract more visitors by branching out. An example would be to co-host reading events with nearby cafes, Lung added.