Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bookshop Just for Women

So what do you think of this idea - a bookshop especially for women?

Elizabeth Tai writes that MPH Bookstores has introduced Malaysia’s first “women concept” store which is at The Curve :
To begin with, the outlet’s books will be chosen for their appeal to women. There will be everything from women-centric business and management books and autobiographies on prominent female leaders to chick-lit and cookbooks. EspresSOUP is a little corner where you can relax with a cup of coffee and a good book. ... There will also be other products with female appeal, such as wedding stationery, to name just one. Brides-to-be will be glad to know that stationery specialist MOOF will be bringing in its exclusive designs, which will only be available at The Curve outlet.
I think it is a clever marketing strategy, especially as The Curve already has a big branch of Borders and the branch of MPH does need to differentiate itself.

Bookshops also do need to reinvent themselves as destinations which customers associate with a pleasurable experience, if they are to survive especially as we move towards the age of ebooks.

This sounds like a place where women might go to treat themselves and get away from the pressures of the day and that's good and I like the idea of the books club, talks and workshops:  it's bookstore "squidginess", for sure.

But, I do have some reservations.  First, I personally don't like segregation of the sexes. Men need their spaces to relax and hang out too.  

And secondly I don't like the cliched assumptions that women should like certain things whether in terms of decor (usually frilly, flowery pink things) or in the choice of  books.  The concept of women's bookshops is nothing new, but around the globe most have been independents which promoted feminist and/or lesbian thought.

Furthermore, it seems to me that there is an increasing de-emphasis on selling books and a move towards the store becoming a gift shop that also sells books. 

I will go check it out the next time I go shopping at The Curve ... and I hope the EspresSOUP corner serves decent coffee!

Anyway, what's your reaction to this?


Sundus Rasheed said...

perfect example of creating a forced market for women. why do men and women need to have different reading rooms? and what makes them think that women only want to read about so called 'women's topics' and wedding stationary...?

gnute said...

In an ideal world, the main impetus for opening up a women's bookstore would be to promote books written by women who often get ignored in 'top ten best authors of all time' lists. I hope they will stock, alongside Nigella cookbooks and Hilary Clinton memoirs, books by Naomi Wolf, Amina Wadud, Zaha Hadid, Ursula Le Guin, Alice Munro, Lydia Davis, Benazir Bhutto, Annie Proulx, Zadie Smith, Germaine Greer, Judith Thurman, Janet Malcolm, not to mention our local wonders Chuah Guat Eng, Shih Li Kow, Charlene Rajendran... I hope Mr Donald Kee is reading this!

Greenbottle said...

oh dear...why are they dumbing down women like this?

Amir Muhammad said...

There were a few women-only bookshops that I saw in San Francisco. But those weren't for the type of women interested in weddings -- or, at least, not the type of weddings that are considered legally binding in heterosexist Malaysia!

Eeleen Lee said...

imagine the Men's only bookshop- nothing but lad lit, DIY books, military encyclopedias, sports almanacs, Top Gear and FHM magazines...and the cafe is tables surrounding a BBQ pit

nope, doesn't sound feasible too

Chet said...

I have fond memories of Silver Moon and Sisterwrite in London. Unfortunately, both no longer in business.

C said...

I don't care for this idea. I like to read all sorts of books. As for all women book clubs well our book club at the library always has all women because men never show up! But just don't make me read about weddings and cooking.

JoV said...

I think it's timely. After blogging for nearly 18 months, All I ever talk to on the blogosphere are women readers around the world! (so it does say something) I think women reads a lot and generally passionate about books.

flexnib said...

I immediately thought, "what, they're going to stock it with chick lit?"

The idea doesn't appeal to me at all. (Feminist bookshops on the other hand, do.)

Unknown said...

I'm happy enough with a normal bookstore....this sounds like a marketing gimmick.

Sasha said...

I guess I'm a little concerned about what MPH deems as 'women-worthy' reading material!

Jane Sunshine said...

I used to love Silver Moon bookshop in London which served only women studies and lesbian fare but they merged with Foyles in order to stay afloat. Not much of a difference to me whether it is women's only or otherwise. My rating of bookshops is based on its eccentricity and charm. It will depend on what is stacked on the shelves at the end of the day.