Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Creativity we can't afford

Via one of my usual sources, Shelf Awareness, comes this story from China Daily, about some interesting bookstores in that country. Now I know full well that China has all kinds of problems - from the government to unethical management and more. I'm not singing the praises of China here. But I'm always amazed with what these newcomers to capitalism come up with in their businesses.

So for bookstores, for example:

*Sculpting in Time Cafe
Located near Renmin University, Diaoke Shiguang boasts a large customer base of college students. Combining the function of cafe and book bar, Diaoke Shiguang has books mainly for reading instead of buying.

It was founded in 1997 by a young couple who just graduated from college. That year they went to Xinjiang Autonomous Region and they were struck by the grandeur of the natural scenery. It was then that they decided to embrace a quiet life. That soon led to the idea of opening a café. They named it after an autobiography by former Russian movie director Andrei Tarkovsky. Sculpting in Time means that people are molded by the lapse of time, which is recorded in movies. The name is a reflection of the café’s humane ambiance.


*The Bookworm
A combination of a lending library, a café and a bar, The Bookworm is one of Beijing’s best places for people to find a quiet place to read with a rooftop terrace. Its library boasts over 16,000 English books. By paying 200 yuan for 6 months or 300 yuan for a year’s membership, readers can borrow books from this extensive selection.

In addition, The Bookworm readers can also attend lectures given by visiting authors as well as a number of other informative events. To know the latest upcoming activities, readers can check out its website at www.beijingbookworm.com.

Now Boston is a bit extreme, given real estate prices, but these could not fly. I guess the Athenaeum is a private library that one can join, but it definitely has a certain serious, even elitist sense about it - it's hardly some lending library. Having said that, it's a gorgeous space and well worth a visit.

I know there is some experimentation with bookstores going on here in the US, but Boston seems a bit more stagnant. Are there government subsidies going into these places, I wonder, or just owners willing to take a plunge? It is because of their version of capitalism that they can swing this? I'm no economist, admittedly.

And anyway, where's my Sculpting in Time?!

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