The first solution Elizabeth comes up with is renting.
I wonder - are book rental stores a typically Malaysian solution to the problem of few libraries and high book prices?
Elizabeth interviews Alex (left) and Susan Ooi who run Reader's Corner at Subang Parade who started the business out of a personal passion for reading:
Alex said that business is tough simply because there aren’t many avid readers out there. “You’re lucky if you survive in this business,” he said. Said Susan: “In the past, after exams are over, our store would be filled with customers. Now, there isn’t that much fanfare. Before, many kids used to spend money to rent books. Now kids use their allowance to go shopping, watch movies in the cinemas; the computer and the Internet don’t help, either. This has influenced kids to give up reading. There doesn’t seem to be many avid readers from the younger generation now.”Then there's swapping books. Elizabeth interviews a group of bookcrossers (right) who meet monthly to exchange books.
The Malaysian chapter was created in Dec 19, 2003, by a then 16-year-old Andy Lim. There are now 207 members but only a few meet once a month to swap books while others mail books to one another.As the article points out, the real aim of bookcrossing is supposed to be that you release books "into the wild" for others to find and enjoy, and the progress of the book is tracked across the internet. But it doesn't really work in Malaysia (as I know from personal experience!) where you never seem to hear of your books again. (Although I've since discovered that books can be crossed at Silverfish with more success and have picked up one or two from the "freebie" shelf myself.) You can contact the group via their yahoo group.
Another solution is looking out for discounts and special offers. Ah, I also can't rest Kinokuniya's Gems of the Month and snipping discount vouchers from the papers.
Yours truly (left, on a bad hair day) burbles on about the joy of warehouse sales (as I have many times on this blog!).
The final solution - and the one that would be most obvious to readers in the West - is to borrow books from libraries. Here there are not enough branch libraries and those that do exist tend to close too early for folks to make use of their services. (Librarians are civil servants in Malaysia and work government hours.)
The article reports how Anne Tham (right) and husband Tham Ah Meng have set up a private library to complement their work at Ace Ed–Venture at USJ9's Business Centre in Subang Jaya where they not only teach English and communication skills but also develop the love of reading in children. They spend RM20,000 a year on books for the kids.
Close to my own heart (because I've been involved in listing purchases of latest stuff for it) is the British Council Library.
So yes, it's possible to be an enthusiastic reader in Malaysia without breaking the bank, and thanks Elizabeth for spreading the word.