Taiwan's bookstores closing fast due to high rent, shrinking sales

09/29/2015 09:53 PM
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Taipei, Sept. 29 (CNA) The number of bookstores in Taiwan has decreased by nearly a third in the past decade due to high rentals, slim profit margins and declining reading habits among people in the country, the Chinese-language Apple Daily reported Tuesday.

This year alone, several iconic bookstore chains in Taiwan have shut up shop, among them the Singaporean chain store Page One that was located in the Taipei 101 mall.

As of July, the number of bookstores in Taiwan was 2,200, compared with about 3,200 a decade ago, the report said, citing data from the Ministry of Finance.

The bookselling industry in Taiwan has been dominated by three bookstore chains, Senseio Bookstore (新學友書局), Kingstone (金石堂) and Eslite (誠品), which each had 50-100 outlets in their heyday.

However, Kingstone, a Taiwanese chain, closed its Zhongxiao branch last month after 30 years in business, the latest in a series of closures that have shrunk the number of Kingstone outlets over the past decade from 110 to 40, according to the Apple Daily report.

Eslite is struggling to maintain its 40 islandwide stores by revising its business model, while Senseio went out of business in 2011 due to financial problems, the paper reported.

Amid rising rental costs and a trend of e-reading, only 16 independent bookstores are left on Chongqing South Road in Taipei's Zhongshan District.

Commonly known as Book Street, it was lined with about 300 independent bookstores years ago, said Shen Jung-yu (沈榮裕), chairman of the Book Street Promotion Association, an organization established by booksellers on Chongqing South Road.

An industry insider said that the profit from the sale of one book is less than NT$100 (US$3), while the cost of renting a ground floor store on Book Street is NT$300,000 to NT$500,000.

Kingstone said its decision to close its Zhongxiao store was due to high rental costs, according to the report.

Another factor affecting the bookstore industry is a declining interest in leisure reading among students who are more focused on school entrance examinations and also among busy working adults, according to Chen Chao-chen (陳昭珍), a professor at the Graduate Institute of Library and Information Studies at National Taiwan Normal University.

(By Evelyn Kao)


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