Saturday, February 25, 2006

Pay Less, Read More

More places to buy books, this time for reading on a budget.

Pay Less Books

A few days ago I wrote about Skoob, which sources its second-hand books from the UK. Pay Less is the largest chain of second-hand bookstores in Malaysia, and sources books from both Europe and the US.
Interestingly, Pay Less began in West-Africa in 1995 by two Europeans: Dimitri Chaniotis and Elke Wollschon. Its mission statement is "to provide consumers with quality English books at discounted prices, with superior customer service in a friendly environment." There are several branches around the city: Ampang Point, Amcorp Mall, Atria Shopping Centre, Carrefour Subang Jaya, Jaya Supermarket, The Summit, Tesco Puchong and IOI Mall, and the chain claims to have 500,000 titles in stock.

I visit Pay Less at the Atria since its just up the road from my house. Of course, there's always something there that I want, and I'm extremely happy to have built up a collection of Best American Short Stories: the books cost me around RM 12 each. My friend Sandra, member of our book club and mad keen reader, works at The Summit branch - so say hello to her when you drop by.

And no more grumbling about not being able to make it to the Klang Valley to buy books, because you can also buy online! Pay Less is affiliated to the wonderful Abebooks (and postage within Malaysia is just a ringgit or two extra.)

Book Rentals

Too poor to buy a book, even from Pay Less? Okay, why not rent one instead?

My friends on the other side of the world will be scratching their heads at this point. Rent a house, rent a car, rent office space - yes. But rent a book??

It's actually a pragmatic solution to a very real problem. Many people can't afford to buy books. We have public libraries here, but they still fall short and aren't always conveniently located.

There are quite a number of little book rental places tucked away around the city, and they seem to come and go. There used to be one in Taman Tun Dr. Ismail that I liked very much since the owner had made the effort to buy in more literary titles, and I was sad when I heard it closed down last year.

City Book Rentals in Lucky Garden, Bangsar (just behing TMC supermarket) has been around for a while and has shelves and shelves of popular fiction (romances, chick lit, thrillers) but certainly enough serious literature to keep the more highbrow reader happy. (The owner clearly had me sussed out the second I walked in and thrust a copy of Su Tong's most recent novel into my hands - and yes, I was tempted.)

Book rental works like this. Each book has a cover price. For a new paperback novel, this might be RM30. (Scruffier copies go for much less, of course.) This is what you pay to take the book away with you. But if you return the book within a month, you get most of your money back, and so may actually pay just RM4-6 for the pleasure of reading it. If you want to keep the book, you just don't bother about returning it.

No book rental place near you? Reader's Shack is Malaysia's first online book rental business. You can even put your own book collection to work by renting books out to others!

Warehouse Sales

Not a bookshop, but a phonomena.

Some of the larger bookshop chains shed their excess stocks with annual sales held in a warehouse or other vacant commercial space, and there are some fantastic bargains laid out on tables in acres and acres of space. At the moment MPH and Times both have their sales on, and I made it to the Times sale yesterday in Atria, PJ.

I hadn't expected it to be so good after reading Daphne's blog, but actually found it to be the best warehouse book sale yet for me. ('spose it depends on the kind of books you're looking for.) Books were wonderfully cheap: paperbacks for RM 8, hardbacks for RM15-20, coffee table books for around RM25, minature Penguin '60's for RM1. Plenty of recent and critically acclaimed fiction. Best bargains have to be Jeffrey Eugenides Middlesex and Rohinton Mistry's Family Matters in hardback, and Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections in paperback - excellent books for a song.

Marisa and Starlight were also browsing the books (we'd aranged to meet for lunch) and I kept dropping recommended reads into Starlight's basket with little stabs of guilt that she'd have to pay for them. It was Marisa's second visit and she refused a basket saying she'd be tempted to buy too much if she did. The tactic didn't work - by the end of her browse, she had a huge pile anyway. I got three carrier bags of books for RM160, mostly paperback novels, but a lovely coffee table book featuring Singaporean artists. It's such a great feeling to find books you love at low low prices! I may go back another day for another pile.


I've mentioned before cheap books, (mostly Penguin titles at RM9.99) in supermarkets. I've seen them in Cold Storage Bangsar and Carrefour Megamall. (Carrefour in Wangsa Maju was Leon's undoing - remember?) I've heard there's also copies in branches of Tesco.)

Okay then - I've written as much as I can about the cheap sources for reading materials. There are probably lots of other cheap places I haven't heard about, so let us know. (I know someone will say Chowrasta Market, Penang, again, and I'm longing to go and explore for myself.)

And please don't turn up at my blog again groaning that you can't afford to buy books!


boo_licious said...

Sharon, one more source for cheap books - libraries! Nowadays the libraries are stocking pretty good stuff on their shelves too.

Allan Koay 郭少樺 said...

it pays not to listen to other people when it comes to book sales.

i thot the Times one was really good and extensive, altho some books were more expensive there than the MPH one. but generally it was waaaayyy better than the MPH one, in terms of both selection and pricing.

but i only bought one book tho. that's becos i'm broke.

Leon Wing said...

The Penguin books bin in Wangsa Maju Carrefour is no more there!! I'm devastated - there are so many more I need to get from the lot!

Anonymous said...

like the borg said in star trek, "resistance is futile." :(

Chet said...

Cold Storage Ikano used to have very good classics at less than RM10/-. When I was there yesterday, I checked out the book section, and there are now less classics which have made way for self-help and romance. Huh?? I guess whatever the genre, they are still reads?

Anonymous said...

Well.. considering that (1) I don't have hundreds of thousands newly liberated from the cold clammy hands of the KWSP and (2) I don't make RM4500 a day, yes I really _can't_ afford them :)

But seriously, I think the second hand stuff is just stuff people don't want to read again. I mean, the really good ones are never there cos people will always want to read and re-read them.

Anonymous said...

Still though, I got Bev Harrell's "An Orderly House" at a second-hand bookstore in AmCorp Mall.. that was a classic. :)

starlight said...

no feelings of guilt necessary sharon! i love being introduced to new stuff esp by well-read bookaholics like you and marisa. thanks so much for the recommendations!

Lydia Teh said...

Pay Less is absolutely my favourite book store - it's good and cheap except that they don't always have the titles we're searching for.

bibliobibuli said...

boolicious - indeed. i'm glad to hear that your library experiences are good. which ones do you go to?

visitor - the times sale was enough for me - though i may go again - you only bought one book? very self-restrained of you - can't believe you were so broke!

leon - poor thing! you have to go cold turkey now

chet - not so good at ikano either? sad

marisa - shall quote that myself next time ...

anon - you are being deliberately offensive here re. the money - and the books at times were many of them excellent books, some in the bookshop last time i looked (e.g. anansi boys neil gaiman, half price)

starlight - *phew* i just wish i'd put some more in your basket now

lydia - i always enjoy going there ...


Anonymous said...

There's a very small second-hand bookstore in AmCorp Mall -- not payless, the other one. The true gems are there, and for less than RM5 too. Who'd have thought that "ejaculate" meant "exclaim" fifty years ago ? :)

Anonymous said...

Pay Less in Jaya Supermarket has closed down, sadly.

Anonymous said...

Hi there,
i want to buy the books (malaysian authors - in bahasa malaysia) related with "batu permata/akik" (precious & semi precious stones; gemology; gemstones;gemmaking;gemcraft ; jewelry making;lapidary etc) is there any information to find it?

Anonymous said...

Stumbled on your blog while searching online for second hand bookstores... Does anyone know where i can sell books? I have a lot of books and am running out of shelf space *sigh* :(

Many thanks