This is for Walker and others across the world, bemused when we talk about our local bookshops. What's MPH? What's Kino? What strange code are we talking in? This is a whistle-stop tour of the bigger bookshop chains here.
Booklovers were very poorly served here until quite recently. The explosion in the number of bookshops has gone hand in hand with the growth of huge shopping malls around the city.
MPH is the biggest chain bookshop and can claim to be the oldest, since it was originally set up as Methodist Publishing House 100 years ago. (Watch out for anniversary celebrations throughout the year!) It now has 26 outlets in Malaysia including 19 in the Klang Valley (that's the connurbation created by Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and surrounding areas). The two biggest stores are in Mid Valley Megamall (opened 2000) and I Utama (opened just a couple of years ago). A big effort has been made with making the stores customer friendly with reading areas (the one in Megamall even has a "courtyard" area with potted plants and a fountain!) and a cafe. A customer loyalty scheme (the MRC card) bags you an annual rebate in the form of book vouchers (Just got mine and have RM117 - enough for a hardback! - to spend) and other benefits (discount on my creative writing course, invitations to previews of the 'warehouse sales'!)
The store is making an effort to support local writers with it's Writer's Circle and also has a full calendar of in-store events.
MPH is also the main book distributor for Malaysia and supplies most of the other bookshops, and also has a publishing arm.
Generally smaller stores than MPH. No website that I can find! (Opportunity missed, someone!) I go to the branch in Bangsar Shopping Complex and love the display of latest books by the entrance: too tempting, I never escape without a hole in my pocket.
Most of all I love the fact that I get a hefty 10% discount on books with my Times loyalty card and 20% in my birthday month.
Popular Bookstore has been around for a very long time in Malaysia and Singapore, specialising in titles in Chinese and discounted books. It has a very big store in the Chinatown area in the city centre. Recently it seems to have reinvented itself, and the new branch in Ikano Power Station has a pretty good selection of fiction and other titles in English. Organises events and has a customer loyalty card.
Borders is the new kid on the block. The first branch was opened in Times Berjaya Square last year, and is supposed to be the "biggest Borders in the world". Perhaps it is in terms of floor space. It certainly isn't overstocked in terms of books. Titles are shipped in from the US and some are more expensive than at other bookstores (I found this with the prices of Oxford dictionaries for example, which the other stores source locally), so it pays to compare prices. There's a branch of Starbucks in-store. Some move recently to host in-store events.
A new branch recently opened at The Curve (distressingly near to my house!) A very pleasant place to loiter.
I've saved the best for last. Kinokuniya is actually a Japanese chain and the KL store sits on the top floor of Suria KLCC, the shopping complex that nestles between the twin towers.
This is book lovers heaven. Even visiting novelists of note (no names to be dropped today) have been impressed and spent hours browsing. It's extremely well-stocked. Very wide range of fiction titles. Interesting in-store promotions (I love the themed displays by the entrance). Generous discounts on featured titles. Generally very clued up staff. Pleasant ambience and a cafe upstairs with a panoramic view of the KLCC park.
Walker, will that do for a start?
The rest of you, anything I forgot to say?
Bookshop Snakes and Ladders (19/6/05)
How Squidgy is Your Bookshop (30/11/05)