Culture Ministry and NGO partner to save indie book stores

Along with those who love social media, many in the Kingdom are also determined to create a culture of reading, especially among the young. Hence, the Ministry of Culture and the Book Studies Foundation are collaborating on a project to save and promote the country’s dwindling population of independent booksellers.

“Promoting a reading culture should start at a young age, and we need to have specialists help develop content and printing techniques,” said Sirote Jiraprayoon, a former executive at the Asia Books chain. He is now the owner of The Booksmith and Papersmith, two independent book stores in northern Chiang Mai and Bangkok.

According to the Bangkok Post newspaper, the number of independent, or “indie” bookstores has dramatically decreased from almost 1,000 a decade ago to about 100 today as large chains and publishers have expanded into e-commerce platforms and slashed prices.

Recognizing the trend, the Ministry of Culture and the Book Studies Foundation have launched the Book Passport, a project that aims to build a network between booksellers and bookworms. By doing so, they hope to boost book sales and instill a reading culture among the young in the Kingdom.

The project currently has 51 independent bookshops participating. Its goal is to encourage people to frequent bookstores. Customers who spend $9 will get a Book Passport and a Covid-19 diary. The passport allows bibliophiles to earn miles when they visit new bookstores, and they can use the miles to win prizes on Facebook.

“Bookshops have become like libraries where those who have no money come to read books and acquire knowledge,” Makut Onrudee, National Artist in Literature, who founded the Book Studies Foundation, told the Bangkok Post.

“Today, we have information available right at our fingertips, but not everyone has access to the internet. Bookstores are important because they help prevent those who have little to no education become victims of false information. Bookstores only sell books that have been proofed by editors and passed rigorous checks,” Makut said.

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