Home Bookstore Commentary: Bookstores are struggling to stay afloat when we need them more than ever

Commentary: Bookstores are struggling to stay afloat when we need them more than ever



Apart from providing a wide selection of books to peruse, bookstores help Singapore’s literary community thrive.

Before the pandemic, programs such as author talks and seasonal bookstore launches connected authors with their audiences. Bookstores with cafes such as Grassroots Book Room and Huggs-Epigram also served as social spaces where readers could interact with writers.

During the pandemic, many bookstores persevered by bringing their programs online. For example, Grassroots Book Room hosted online author conferences and Wardah Books in Kampong Glam hosted silent book clubs via Zoom. They also sought to engage younger crowds by posting regularly on Instagram or via blog entries.

Some bookstores also cater to niche needs and have knowledgeable staff to help with curation. They collect and exhibit books adapted to their clientele but always arouse dialogue.

For example, Wardah Books specializes in books for Muslim readers, but has since updated its collection to include English language books to appeal to a wider range of readers.

Staff at niche bookstores also provide book recommendations. While online algorithms can predict and suggest relevant titles, they cannot hold a conversation with you to understand your tastes and preferences.

Parents or educators needing advice on children’s reading can drop by Woods in the Books in Yong Siak Street or its sister store, Books Ahoy at Forum. School library coordinators can contact specialized staff at Kinokuniya for the latest student-friendly books.