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Category Archives: books

We love bookstores and Chris has been posting our visits on the blog. So far we have 25 bookstores from around the world from Moscow to Tokyo. Click the link to see the posts.

Moscow, House of Books

Tokyo, T-site

As much as Amazon is a threat especially to many small bookstores in the US, the bookstores (at least the major ones) have not disappeared outside the US. Thank God.

From the oldest in the world in Lisbon to a super modern store in Sao Paulo – both selling mostly portugese books …

Lisbon, Livraria Bertrand

Sao Paulo, Livraria Cultura at Iguatemi mall

From MIT which publishes academic books on advanced technologies to the Parisian publisher who puts out reprints of early 20th century original (translated) work by Einstein and many other physicists and mathematicians …

Boston, MIT Press

Paris, Edition Jacques Gabay

We will keep this series up.

Hope you find these posts interesting. To find our other posts on bookstores,  just click on books in the Categories on the sidebar of any one of these posts.

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When I(Chris) was in Hong Kong during Easter, I came across this bookstore.

Breakthrough (突破) was a magazine that was published between 1973 and 1999. When I was in secondary school in Hong Kong, I was a school librarian and flipped through it. The history of the magazine, the social movement and its activities are described here.

Breakthrough is a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to the education and development of youth culture with a christian viewpoint.

As you enter, you are greeted by this sign which says “re-experiencing the temperature of paper books”.

The organization’s mission is to develop, via media and interpersonal relationship, the city’s youth so that they become leaders of the 21st century.

They are a publisher of chinese language books.

The Book Gallery located near Jordan is one of three bookstores run by the organization.

These are key rings made with resin which resembles the signs used by old Hong Kong taxi and minibus (I think), particularly the font and colors.

Can be custom made with your phrase.

There is a coffee bar with barista service.

They also stocked a small collection of card games and board games, some of them translated from English or German.

The gallery like most shops in Hong Kong is small but it felt open and comfortable. A nice place to rest your feet and browse.

It is rare in Hong Kong to find an establishment like Breakthrough that is doing something meaningful and not entirely commercial.

Before we leave Oslo, we have an addition to our bookstore of the world series …

Eldorado Bokhandel is the largest independent bookstore in Scandinavia offering 4,000 square metres of books, culture and music. It is located at Torggata 9A.

The bookstore opened in 2013. The facade is fairly non-descript, narrow and does not reveal much about the store. We almost walked past it.

Eldorado has Norway’s largest departments for children’s books, audio books and classical music, as well as a coffee shop, a back yard restaurant (we did not see as it was winter) and four levels (we did not count).

It had a large collection of classical music by Naxos.

In fact, the layout is a bit confusing as it has several levels and the rooms are not rectangular.

A ramp with ducks in the background.

The atrium space with armchairs were very welcoming.

They have a fair number of English books and it was a very up-to-date selection.

and it included Norwegian literature

In English, a reason to buy books !

… a small theatre with comfy chairs

Drawings of people from around the world on the walls above bookshelves of travel books

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… a throne from fantasy books ?

Evolution of the Penguin books logo  … cannot remember the context of this poster, maybe it is just a poster for sale.

They were closing at 6 … never figured out what the tall man is about.

Quite a bookstore befitting the name Eldorado.

Another bookstore … this time in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. This one barely survived.

Donner is located on Coolsingel, in a former bank building, all public areas on one floor. This bookstore and the pride of Rotterdam was swallowed up by a big chain store that unfortunately went bankrupt in 2014.

The Top 10 fictions and non-fictions.

Owing to a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised 250.000 euros, Donner was able to relocate to its current location.  It’s again a proudly independent and well stocked bookshop.

The number one fiction – “The Best Thing We Have” by Griet Op de Beeck.

A nice collection of Lovecraft stories.

Cookbook section

Calendars for 2018.

Like most bookstores these days, they sell a whole lot of other non-printed merchandise, such as collectible objects.

There was an event which just finished. A line of people was waiting for refreshments and perhaps a selfie with the speaker or an autographed book.
 
Old books – several aisles of them.
High-end lifestyle magazines. They look like coffee table photo books without a real topic (except Nez which is a serious perfume magazine), and costs the same or more.
There is something about this bookstore, possibly its slight messiness in full view which made me felt like I was in a public library.
Hope this one survives.

Continuing with my tour of the world’s bookstores … Livraria Bertrand at Rua Garrett 73 in Lisbon is the oldest and largest bookstore chain in Portugal.

Since it was launched in 1732, the Bertrand Bookstore stayed open, and has thus entered the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest bookstore in the world still in operation. The business survived earthquakes, revolutions and the recent economic crisis.

The bookstore was founded by a Frenchman in the area of the current store – Baixa. Pierre Bertrand joined the store in 1744.

The earthquake of 1755 destroyed the original store but it returned in 1773 to Rua Garreta where it still operates today.

Later in the twentieth century, the company evolved, changed owners several times. In 1912, ownership of the “Livraria Bertrand” was with the firm ‘Aillaud Bastos & Alves’ editors in Paris, Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro. In 1938, it opened the first bookstore in Porto and, from 1939, Livraria Bertrand had its own printing press.

When I arrived, it was still opened. The closing time is 10:00pm – rare for a bookstore in Europe.

The top 10 fictions and non-fictions – the No. 1 fiction is Dan Brown’s Origin – sans surprise. Very few English books.

Nobel laureate José Saramago’s books are prominently featured (inside and in the window display) as were those by the poet Fernando Pessoa.

The bookstore is all on one floor.

The Bertrand Group owns 53 bookstores in Portugal, a book club, and eight smaller publishers. The company was a subsidiary of giant German media corporation Bertelsmann until 2010, when Bertelsmann sold Bertrand to Porto Editora, Portugal’s biggest publishing house. “Bookstore Bertrand” is thus the name of a network of bookstores across the country.

Law Books

Although the brick-and-mortar bookstore is under threat, Bertrand has managed so far and built an online presence. I read that many Portuguese language books that publishers send overseas are delivered to Africa and nearly half are ordered by customers in Angola.

We saw some big beautiful bookstores in Sao Paulo, Brazil, click here, here and here. You would have thought that they do well in South America, but Bertrand is not there. Apparently, Portugal and its former colonies do not have a standardized literary language (although they speak the same language) which could be used simultaneously in Europe, Africa, and South America. As a result, the works of Portuguese novelists must be “translated” into the Brazilian version of literary Portuguese before they can be marketed in Brazil.

The bookstore has a cafe – Cafe Bertrand with the catchphrase “Taste our books”. It also has its own entrance.

The room is named after the poet Fernando Pessoa who frequented this place with many Portuguese literary luminaries over the years. Notice the typewriter sitting above the wine refrigerator? Just in case if someone is in a creative mood ?

It also has a cute character-based logo in the shape of a cup and saucer.

Keeping the good bookstore tradition alive.

Continuing with our bookstore tour … this one in Scotland

The Waterstones at Edinburgh’s West End is one of four in the city.

The four-floor bookshop is right at the heart of the city, opposite Edinburgh Castle, on the capital’s main shopping street; Princes St.

They have “a large and inviting Children’s department, a robust and exciting events programme, and a Scottish department that reflects the richness and diversity of this country.

Once upon a time …

In my opinion, the most remarkable feature of the bookstore is the staircase that links the four floors.

Parts of the stairs are symmetrical.

More books on Scotland

Want to hike the Highlands ? Here is whole shelf full of maps.

The landing is used very effectively to display books.

Another view of the stairs.

The Café is on the Second Floor …

… with great views of the Castle and Edinburgh skyline.

Books on the English language.

Definitely a great place to linger when it is drizzling outside as it happens frequently in the summer (we have so far experienced except the time when this photo was taken).

Another entry to our tour of bookstores around the world …

We found this gem of a bookstore in Biarritz.  The bookstore is called “BOOKSTORE”. And to confirm the nature of its business, on the storefront below the name, it says “Librairie Bookstore”.

It is understandable that this establishment at a French beach town is so named in English because historically, many British tourists including royalties like Queen Victoria and King Edward VII spent their vacation at this seaside resort.

On its website, it lists its Summer opening hours which are 1 hour longer and are applicable from July 8 to September 1.  After all, the bookstore is barely a block from the beach – No. 27 Place Clemenceau.

The bookstore is remarkable in that it is really quite small – not much larger than a newsagent that sells only magazines, cigarettes, sodas and chewing gum.

The back of the store has a lower section that sells “livre de poche” – paperback books – perfect for the beach.

The front room has a main area and a set of stairs that lead to a mezzanine level.

There is a “bureau” in the front room as well as at the mezzanine level. These bureaus are essentially little single-person booths where a storekeeper helps customers with payment and questions.

The bureau on the mezzenine level is rather unusual as it is suspended in the airspace (hovers) above the main area. A small souvenir street nameplate stuck on this bureau says “Place de la Contrescarpe” – a square in Paris considered the center of the 5th arrondisement – the Latin Quarter – an area known for scholarly and literary pursuits.

Despite its size, it affords a nice small leather sofa (oversized relative to the floor space) on the mezzanine level.

All the offerings here appear to be quality reading materials – most if not all are in French and we are not yet proficient to understand/gauge – so we judged them by their covers.

Books are displayed three-sixty degrees on all available shelf space, wall space and any flat surfaces.

The store is generously lit by big bright round light bulbs  – without them the space might feel a bit claustrophobic.

We presume the bookstore is fully stocked since we were at the beginning of the tourist season, hence multiple copies of the same book in stacks on display.

One of a kind.

 

In our bookstore tour of the world, we increasingly see the merger of bookselling with another retail concept – for example, the T-site in Daikanyama 代官山 in Tokyo and the Eslite Spectrum in Hong Kong – see our posts here and here. In Bologna, I (Chris) visited the Librerie Coop + Eataly Bologna – a combination that is more 50-50 than the earlier examples.

 

Librerie Coop is a chain in Italian bookstore with more than 30 stores.

 

Eataly is an international operator of food halls selling Italian food stuffs and restaurants – their stores are apparently wildly successful in NYC at first (that was after we left the city) and then in Chicago.

 

Admittedly, we have not yet been inside one in the US but we imagine them to be a kind of European imported food megastore with a high-end food court. The food halls of Harrods (London), Shinsegae (Seoul) and KaDeWe in Berlin (see post) come to mind.

 

The corporate parent is an Italian company founded near Alba and started first in Torino. Apparently, the two companies have collaborated at multiple locations in Italy.

 

The book-food store is located not far from Piazza Maggiore at Via degli Orefici, 19.

 

This location has a cafe, a wine bar…

 

a trattoria …

and an osteria.

I wonder if they will let customer take a book to the table to read while waiting for or consuming his/her order.

The bookstore floor space is tight, although it has several floors. Compare this with the oldest bookstore in Bologna, Libreria A. Nanni which I also visited – see post here.

The space feels intimate and cozy overall. Great idea, well executed.

I read in the news that Eataly will open a food theme park – Eataly World – in Bologna in 2017. It will convert 20 acres of old warehouses into 25 restaurants, 10 classrooms, a convention center, farms, and labs. Buono appetito. Looking forward to it …

Ciao

I was visiting Bologna last December. Bologna is famous not only for its pasta sauce and several other foods but also for its porticos. In total, there are over 45 km (28 miles) of arcades, some 38 in the city center. While strolling in the historic center, I came across this bookstore which uses part of the arcade in front of its store front to display books and magazines.

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Libreria Nanni is located at Via Dè Musei, 8 – under il Portico della Morte (Portico of Death) – its name arising from the nearby old Hospital of Santa Maria della Morte, which now houses the Archaeological Museum.

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The bookstore was founded by the Marchesi family in the early nineteenth century became a reference point for students, scholars and bibliophiles. It was acquired by Arnaldo Nanni in 1900’s. This is the oldest bookstore in the city of Bologna.

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It was just 7pm and the store keepers were closing down the store and moving some of the displayed books inside. I quickly wandered inside to look around.

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Apparently, this bookstore was frequented by the well-known writer and film director – Pier Paolo Pasolini – murdered in 1975 unfortunately.

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The bookstore also specializes in ancient books as well as old and rare magazines and comics – see the shelves behind the counter.

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They also sell text books but it is in the back behind the wall of ancient books.

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Judging by the age of the stalls, it is quite likely that books and magazines have been displayed this way for many years.

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Old Architectural Digest …

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comics …

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… and travel magazines

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If you are curious about bookstore, click here to see a renovated bookstore – Rizzoli – in a central shopping arcade in Milano.

Our next post will be about one of the newest bookstore in Bologna. Don’t miss it.

Continuing from part 1 … as some of you may know, we have been putting up photos of bookstores from around the world. In addition to those posts that are linked in part 1, here are a few more that you can jump to: House of Books in Moscow, Alexandra in Budapest and the MIT Press in Boston.

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La Rive Gauche is the left bank or southern bank of the Seine which includes the arrondissements 5 (Latin Quarter), 6 and parts of 7 – generally known for its bohemian and anti-establishment roots. My hotel was right next to the University of Paris, La Sorbonne main building and not far from the Panthéon.

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Many of the bookstores are actually publishers – Editions Ivrea evolved from Editions Champ Libre which was founded after the May 1968 student riots in this same area of Paris.

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Editions Champ Libre and its founder Gerard Lebovici were famous for their associations with the socialist/communist writers and political movements. Gerard Lebovici was assassinated in the 1980’s.

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Just around the corner from my hotel is the Cinema du Panthéon, and down the street is a bookstore dedicated to the arts of film making. By the time I finished my meetings, it was dark already. So do excuse the lack of interior photos and the rather reflective window shots.

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It is rare to find a specialist bookstore these days.

Voila – La Librairie du Cinema du Pantheon.

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I remember one in the midst of the NY Broadway theaters – 46th between Broadway and 8th Ave ?

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It sells movie posters, postcards … and some specialist DVDs are available – films about films.

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“Paris In Cinema”, “Ciné Quiz”  … brain food for movie buffs

paris-books-25Monroe and Kubrick books …

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A series of monographs published by the Cahier du Cinema, titled “Anatomy of an Actor” – Clooney, Brando, Pacino, Kidman, De Niro.

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There are even film books written for kids, and movie guides for age 3-8 and age 9-12 !  – “200 films for you to see before becoming tall”.

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There were other specialist bookstores in the area, e.g., philosophy by J Vrin

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… Science and fantasy fictions … Galactic stories

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… books on Asia

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and law books by Dalloz.

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Among all these bookstores is a shop that provide photocopying and digital scanning services.

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I am sure there are a lot more bookstores in the area but I had to leave … my French needs to get better first before I come back to browse.

 

Fin

As some of you may know, we have been putting up photos of bookstores from around the world. This is another bunch to add to the pile. If you are curious, do click on the side bar and browse the filtered selections. Or jump to Rizzoli in Milano, T-site in Daikanyama, Tokyo, Livraria Cultura in Iguatemi, Sao Paulo, and Waterstones in Central London to start.

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Last year, I (Chris) had a business meeting in Paris near the university, La Sorbonne. Understandably, the area when I was staying is full of bookstores and publishers. So it was quite convenient for me to snap all these pictures.

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Due to the lack of time, the time of day of my walkabout and the weekend (they all close on Sunday), I really did not have much chance to enter the bookstores and browse – hence, the lack of interior photos and the rather reflective window shots.

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All these bookstores are all within 10 minutes walk max from each other.

paris-books-10Livres

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Editions Cassini publishes science books for the general public and those who are just curious about science.

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In its window were work by Richard Feynman on planetary movements, and books about The Prisoner’s Dilemma (Game theory), the beauty of mathematical formulas, and John Maynard Smith’s evolutionary biology (also based on Game theory).

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Editions Jacques Gabay publishes hardcore, academic mathematics and physics books by famous scientists – e.g., Einstein – the man himself.

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See their publications on the Theory of General Relativity, Tensor Calculus, Theory of Electrons, etc. – all fundamentals of modern physics. Just having these books on your shelf will increase your IQ.

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It was not all maths and sciences – on another street, there is Classiques Garnier. Since 1896, they have been publishing literary works of from around the world, French and foreign, ancient and modern, in reference editions.

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Some French classics – e.g., poems in latin by Victor Hugo. If you are curious, download their 200-page general catalogue here. One can find classics from as early as the middle ages and Renaissance reprinted in paperback for a lot less than 100 euro.

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Librairie des petits Platons –  publishes children’s books.

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There is a shop that buys/sells old and perhaps rare books and second hand books … funny that there was a recycling bin in front of it.

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I have been learning some French but by no means effective and definitely, my current ability does not allow me to enjoy these books.

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Perhaps I was not in the right places in the US, never have I seen so many bookstores in one area and there are so many publishers who also run a brick-and-mortar store with a street front.

More to come in part 2 !

We were visiting Hong Kong during the Christmas period. One store that we went to multiple times on this trip is The Eslite Spectrum store in Star House星光行, Tsim Sha Tsui.

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Its location just happened to be near the places that we were visiting and it is just a nice place to have a coffee while waiting for friends.

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Not only it sells Chinese and English books and magazines, it is a full-fledged lifestyle store.

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Hong Kong is very much filled with designer boutiques, department stores, malls packed with brand names along side tiny mom-and-pop shops, and even pop up stores. Eslite spectrum is a big bookstore with smaller stores/stalls/counters inside.

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On its website, it says “visitors can browse their way through the store’s inspiring reading landscape to explore and create their own version of the good life.”

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Mixing books and magazines with other lifestyle products is a current global retail trend – a bazaar selling books side by side with eye glasses, stationary, bags as well as house plants, cameras and even organic groceries.

eslite-7Farm direct.

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Wooderful Life sells a range of small wooden figurines. There is a fun display of scenaries with moving figurines.

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One can choose pieces to build a scene, including battery-powered base and magnetic pieces which move around the base.

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The cafe in Eslite Spectrum is rather small. Local old fashion metal shutters are used as decoration. It looked like the decoration is put there to hide an unsightly column – after all, the building is at least 40-plus years old.

While in Tokyo, we went to the T-site “bookstore” in Daikanyama by Tsutaya which has a similar idea (see post here). It had the most gorgeous space for a coffee shop in a bookstore. Tsutaya has just opened their first bookstore in Taiwan (January 2017). Eslite will have some serious competition.

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Eslite Bookstore was established in 1989. The first shop was located in Dunhua South Road, Daan District, Taipei, with a focus and emphasis on art and humanities-related books.

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It was the first to set up a 24-hour bookstore in Taiwan at its Dunhua store and later in Hong Kong, attracting lots of night-time readers.

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Freeze-dried fruits, vegetables and even shitake mushrooms – we bought a huge jar of it.

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In Hong Kong, the first Eslite bookstore opened in Causeway Bay in 2012. This 3-storey store in Star House opened in 2015. It stocks 200,000 books and 80,000 lifestyle items.

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Eslite as a brand is branching into the hotel and home interior businesses – specializing in warm, modern and sophisticated spaces for living and reading. Love it.

Continuing with our posts on the bookstores we come across …, Libelle mit H&B is a high end, second hand bookstore (antique bookseller) in Basel, Switzerland. Click here to see their site.

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It has a perfect location – a block from the city’s main thoroughfare –  and situated at just the bottom of the cobbled-stoned street that leads up to the boutiques on Spalenberg.

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IT was looking for some old books on accordion or ballet, I vaguely recall. I was not looking at the books instead, I was admiring the interiors.

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There are two rooms on the main floor at the street level. It is not a big place –  a basement, a main floor, and a first floor.

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The stairs that hugs the perimeter of the space and connecting the three floors is a masterpiece – modern, minimal, functional.

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The stairs allows access to literally the books on all four walls. One stretch has rather deep treads that allow a customer to remain on a stair step while browsing the books.

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At the top of the stairs is a gallery that allows one to look down onto the main floor.

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Another notable feature is the lighting fixture on the vertical part of the bookshelves. So minimal as it occupied little space, and functional that it provided light where it is needed.

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The lighting fixtures also provided visually a vertical element in the space, contrasting the horizontal stair steps and bookshelves.

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The store gave up one half of the street-facing shop window but retains the front of the first floor.

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There is a small traditional library with places to sit and read as well as space to laid out maps and prints.

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There were books in German, French and English, probably Italian too.

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This is a version of my dream home library if I am going to have one.

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Sometimes I wonder, I seem to enjoy collecting books more than reading them as there is not enough time to read them all.

Continuing our tour of the world’s bookstores, we found a Rizzoli inside the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II in Milano. It is affiliated with the one in New York.

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The Rizzoli Galleria are on three floors, it is not huge but carries quite a variety of Italian and international books.

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According to the publicity material, the store guaranteed that true librarians are there to help customers, not mere store assistants.

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It was temporarily closed and reopened in 2014, modernized.

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The idea is to”re-launch physical brick and mortar bookstores, in order to highlight the beauty of discovering books and their contents, through a unique experience that could never be paralleled by an on-line store.” Bravo.

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There are stations where one can browse today’s newspapers and current magazines electronically. Huh, even Abitare !

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The store is flexibly designed to accommodate various types of events, notice the table on bicycle wheels above.

rizzoli-10Space for talks and book-signing.

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The owners wish to have both stores, the one in Milan and the one in New York, to keep on being recognized as truly “iconic” places, to act as cultural agents and to act as catalysts to spread culture. While we were living in NYC, we certainly frequented the stores, especially the one on West Broadway, SoHo.

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Travel books section.

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The upper floor offers an interesting view of the Galleria and shoppers below.

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On the day of our visit (in June 2016), it is the same day as the Champions League Final. There were chants by happy (and a little bit drunk) fans from Madrid on both sides. The two teams playing in the final were Atlético Madrid and Real Madrid, both Madrid teams.

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We are glad in a sense that the gallery where Rizzoli is has not been turned into yet another haute couture boutique alley. There are plenty of fashion houses in Milano that are within a few minutes walk from here.

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There is even a McD in here (not visible from the bookstore). Happy browsing.

Click on the link books under category to see other bookstores around the world.

If you have been following this blog for a while, you would know that I(Chris) like to check out local bookstores when visiting a new city/country.  For example, in Budapest, London, Kuala Lumpur… for more bookstores, click on Books to find them.

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In Moscow, I stumbled upon this massive bookstore after having dinner in the touristy Arbat area.

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The street Novy Arbat is actually not so touristy as it is a major thoroughfare with 6-8 lanes of traffic. It actuality took me a while in the evening darkness to find a pedestrian underpass to go to the other side of the street.

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As I cannot read Russian, I was not sure that it was a bookstore – from a distance, I thought it could have been a record store – a Russian Virgin or Towers – well as it turned out, not exactly, it is a Russian Barnes & Nobles or Waterstones.

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It does indeed sell some music – CD, DVD – but it is a small collection.

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The store has a section selling vintage books.

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Downstairs are departments selling stationary, magazines and vintage books.

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They did not seem to mind me taking photos.

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Upstairs are the general sections, including some English books.moscow books-10

Wish I could read Russian, I am so curious of all these books.

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I was happy to find that they stock a lot of sheet music – as gifts to IT who is learning a new musical instrument – I could easily pick up a few souvenirs.

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There was also a cafe (closed already since I was there after dinner).

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Similar to B&N, there was an area for talks, book signing, etc. which were filled with a small contingent of comfortably immersed readers.

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It is really a cozy place to hang out with books or a friend, away from the bitter cold outside. It was getting late and I needed to figure out how to get back to my hotel.

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Reading is good in any language.

We spent almost half a day in Daikanyama 代官山, most of the time in the Tsutaya bookstore蔦屋書店. For Chris who has been photographing bookstores (for example, Livraria Cultura in Sao Paulo, Alexandra in Budapest etc.), this Tsutaya branch is a temple for worshipping.

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In a perfect world, all bookshops near me would be like this. Opened in 2011 after three years of development, the whole site is created by the owner of Tsutaya Books with the concept of “A Library in the Woods”. We would love to live in the midst of it.

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The company, Culture Convenience Club (CCC), founded in 1983, owns a chain of bookstores and video rental outlets. It brands itself as being a culture infrastructure company in the lifestyle navigator business providing comprehensive entertainment.

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If CCC is building a real estate business on top of entertainment, it may very well be a winning business formula for the 21st century. With all this talk of creating a virtual ecosystem (think Amazon) where your customers do all their shopping and content consumption, this could be an equivalent, a real-world ecosystem where your customer lingers and even chooses to live around the site.

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Most of what we have written below here is taken from the official web site of T-site at Daikanyama. The site consists of three buildings connected by a walkway which splits the buildings into six different departments.

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The letter “T” is used as a motif which forms a laced façade on the white exteriors, echoing “T-site”. The exterior also forms a big “T” (see below). This design was the winning submission from among 80 firms in a competitive architectural request for proposals.

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Books and magazines (Japanese and Western), current and vintage are placed together in six specialty categories: Cuisine, Travel, Cars and Motorcycles, Architecture and Design, Art, and Humanities and Literature.

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Starbucks is served on the ground floor.

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We headed upstairs to Anjin-  a salon accented by rare collections of books and magazine from around the world – 30,000 vintage magazines from the 1960’s-70’s.

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There is a skylight in the salon bringing in natural light and a footbridge that connects to the other buildings.

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A short line was formed of people waiting for a table. We were gently told by the waitperson that there is a 45-minute seating limit. They needed that time limit because the place is so comfortable and people simply do not move.

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The customer is surrounded by artworks, books, old and new magazines, all for your browsing, with a cappuccino (or alcoholic drinks) and delicious cakes and snacks.

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As the line of waiting customers disappeared, we were left to stay as long as we liked (at least nobody came to ask).

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Past issues of Studio Voice (click here) – a Japanese music magazine Chris had browsed in the past (might still have them), definitely collectible (if we have the space).

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The music department is installed with hi-end vacuum tube McIntosh amplifiers and fancy speakers (cannot imagine them being allowed to operate properly in a bookstore).

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The video department is intent on offering a complete selection of everything that can be bought in Japan. For classic titles previously unavailable as DVDs, they can be burned right at the store as disks to take home. While Netflix is ubiquitous and quite comprehensive, it cannot match this place for choices.

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Outside the bookstore are a selection of retail stores, including Kitamura Camera Specialty store (where we bought an iphone accessory that adds a choice of macro and telephoto lens).

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The T-site offers multiple eateries and even a pet grooming service and a bicycle shop in the pedestrian zone which blend into the other specialty and fashion stores in Daikanyama.

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Daikanyama is a bit more grown up than Harajuku.

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According to the T-site website, “The young adults who came to us for lifestyle navigation 28 years ago are now 50-something and 60-something years old. So we decided to re-invent lifestyle navigation for these adults.”

Great concept.

 

 

 

 

 

We are caught a bit off guard when the admin page of WordPress indicated that our next post will be the six hundredth (600th) that we published. As previously said several times, we are surprised that the interest in keeping up this blog has not fizzled out over the last 5 years. True it is, that we are still living in Europe and away from our friends and families, the primary reason for starting the blog. But we also find that this blog is a convenient medium to capture and frame memories of our time in Switzerland and our travels, and it became a habit and a hobby (at least for Chris).

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The blog was launched on November 4, 2009. The first trip ever reported here was our visit of Playa de Carmen, Mexico in November 2009 (click here to see). We had not yet left the US at that time but were starting to pack our belongings and worried about the move.

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Fast forward to now, posts on our quick tour of three cities – Taormina, Siracusa (Ortigia) and Catania – on the east coast of Sicily, taken during Easter, are under preparation now. Our most recent visit to Berlin and Copenhagen earlier this month has not yet been written up. Most of the photos are still in Raw format.

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Since March 2013, we have been posting a series of photos on Facebook, one a day except Sunday and Thursday when the blog is updated. There is no theme – just something random and per se visually interesting. They are essentially pictures that did not make the blog for some reasons. We gave each a serial number, a minimally-worded title and a mention of where it was taken (to the extent we could remember the location). But we wanted to share them with the readers here too – so we started showing 5 of them in a post – somewhat irregularly. This is the first of the series – #1 – “the history of cool” –  Munich.

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So far we have shown about 150 of them here, but on Facebook, we are at #444 – there is a backlog of almost 300 random photos! On days when we are not writing the blog, these photos could keep the blog going for a while. This is #443 – “dark 3” – Taormina.

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The readership of this blog has stabilized at around 50-70 views per day. Apart from posting a link in Facebook, Twitter and Google+ each time a post goes public, we made little attempts to drive up the statistics. We also signed up Pinterest but have not seen much changes (perhaps we are not leveraging the site properly). But other people have pinned our photos on pinterest.  So if you do not feel like writing a comment, pin a photo.

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Recently, we noticed that the page view of one of our posts in April on eating durian on the street of Petaling Jaya (click here to see) has gone through the roof (more than 120 views last week alone and maintaining the momentum). It must have caught the attention of certain netizens in Malaysia (as reflected in WordPress statistics), and got linked to an index or a popular site.

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The reigning champion of page views is still our first post on HSBC’s poster ads as seen around major airports in 2010 (click here). Its two siblings are receiving decent traffic too.

This blog has changed its theme (a WordPress term for the overall look and feel of the blog) only once which happened within the first month of its launch. So the appearance remains constant for the last few years and it is getting a bit aged. But we are hesitant to change to a more modern theme as it could affect somewhat unpredictably the old posts. More experimenting is needed (if we have more time).

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One day we might want to make a book (or several books) using these photos, like the ones we did for Yellowstone National Park and Iceland back in 2007.

We have been buying books showing photos of a city “then and now” or aerial views of an area.

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Before signing off, we want to thank our readers for their interest and support, and Susie who has been responding to our posts consistently and ranks No. 1 with the highest number of comments.

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Your feedback is important as it is the only way we know someone is reading the blog. So please comment, like, retweet, follow, clip, subscribe, pin, bookmark, repost or do some good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. In the meantime, we will continue to share words and images of our adventures.

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Cheers.

A few more posts about Malaysia …

My regular readers know that I(Chris) like taking pictures of bookstores and have been posting them online, for example:  Alexandre in Budapest, Livraria Cultura in Sao Paulo, MIT Press in Boston, Waterstones in London. As we were wandering in KL’s celebrated shopping mall – Suria KLCC, we found this massive Books Kinokuniya.

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Kinokuniya is a Japanese bookstore chain that has opened stores beyond its native country. There is one in New York on 6th Avenue between 40th and 41st across from Bryant Park – a few blocks from my old office.

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As expected, one finds Japanese books in Kinokuniya.

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There were also plenty of English books.

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… including text books and models of cars.

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As there were many Chinese in KL, we found a Chinese section. But we did not see a Malay section. It was probably there but it was less prominent and escaped our perusal. A section of Chinese magazines – most if not all use traditional Chinese characters and came from Taiwan or Hong Kong.

 

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There was also a large manga section …

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… as well as Western (US mostly) comics nearby.

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Matchbox-sized metal diecast toy cars were a surprising find. I(Chris) was really tempted to buy one. There are currently 140 models in the Tomica brand lineup, which is continually being renewed with the release of a new model on the third Saturday of each month.

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Also surprised to find was the number of tarot cards, Western fortune-telling paraphenalia on sale.

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There was a cafe upstairs.

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The well-stocked arts section was upstairs.

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Sadly, bookstores are disappearing in the United States due to ebooks.

 

Back in fall 2014, we spent a long weekend in Budapest, Hungary.  We have a couple more posts on this city before we put up photos from our Malaysian trip.

While strolling along Andrássy út (Budapest’s Fifth Avenue), we came across this building with a rather impressive facade. The combination of art nouveau motifs and dramatic lighting gave the facade a steampunk vibe and later reminded me (Chris) the set design in the movies Dune (1984) and Tyrell Corporation in Blade Runner.

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Inside it, we found a branch of the Alexandra bookstore chain. It is one of Hungary’s biggest bookstore.

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The Alexandra bookstore started off as a casino in 1884, and then become the Párizsi Nagy Áruház (Paris Department Store) in 1911. It was Budapest’s first building which was built specifically for retail purposes.

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Planned and designed by Gustav Petschacher and Sigismund Sziklai, the Neo-Renaissance building – had a billiard and ballrooms on the first floor, playing and reading rooms on the second floor, while the third floor was constructed as luxury apartments.

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It has a very modern-looking atrium but the atrium was in the original design.

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The interior design – including the spectacular art deco fresco’s which have survived to this day. They were done by the “Prince of Hungarian Arts” Karl Lotz.

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It has a high glass-vaulted ceiling, and had a glass-mirrored elevator (which we did not see).

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The building somehow survived World War II and the communist period.

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The Orco Property Group bought the building in 2005 and spent the next 4 years renovating the building.

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When the building reopened on the 10th of November 2009, the first tenant was the Alexandra Bookstore, which took over the ground and first floor.

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Click here to see their online bookshop in Hungarian.

 

We have nothing to do with the ads below.

Írók Boltja (Writers’ Bookshop) is located on the busy corner of Andrássy street No. 45 and Liszt Ferenc square. It is just down the street from the gigantic Alexandra (see later post).

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The store is special because it has a history of more than a hundred years, always connected to writers and poets, and played a cultural role in the city.

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Originally a café (Café Japan), it functioned from the 1890s as a legendary gathering place for writers and intellectuals until it was transformed into a bookshop in the 1950s.

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It now has a mezzanine floor where gatherings, book-signings, and talks can be held.

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Literary figures are known to visit regularly, along with readers, authors, publishers, and occasionally Hungarian-challenged tourists like us drop in to look around.

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The bookstore stocks mostly classical and contemporary Hungarian literary works, and some translations in English and other European languages.

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Next door to it is a small shop that sells some touristy books and music, including sheet music. Here, we bought IT a small Christmas gift – which is a reprint of the first edition of the 1849 album-leaves by Ferenc Liszt for Princess Marie von Sayn-Wittgenstein (Emléklapok Marie von Sayn-Wittgenstein hercegkisasszony számára). It was auctioned in 1926, passed through the hands of several private collectors and published for the first time in 2000.

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If you are curious about Hungarian books, their online store is here.

If you see ads below, they have nothing to do with us.