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Why cities should support brick and mortar bookshops: Shanghai shows the way

According to the CPC, the city of Shanghai is providing 5 million yuan ($793,800) to support book retailers who find themselves beaten down by competition from online competitors.

The money will reportedly go to private bookshops that “play a significant role in enriching people’s cultural lives,” according to Kan Ninghui, deputy director of the city’s press and publication bureau.

Lifeline thrown to city's bookstores

Customers browse the shelves of Longzhimei Advertisement Bookstore in Shanghai on Monday, before it closes for business. [Niu Yixin / for China Daily]

Bricks and mortar book sellers have been hurt by rising rent costs, online competition and changing reading habits. “We can’t wait any longer to support and help bookstores through hardship,” Kan said at a municipal news conference. A lively network of bookshops and newsstands is important to the cultural ecology of a city, he said. “It’s of key importance to cultivate and maintain such an ecology.”

Bookshops are being encouraged to log on to the bureau website and submit  applications. A jury made up of academics, readers and industry insiders will choose who will receive the financial support, either in the form of subsidy, prize money or subsidized loans..

Bookstores will be evaluated for their ‘service, environment and contribution to local cultural activity’. Shops in university towns, the Central Business District and residential communities will all be considered, as well as small shops in the countryside. Kan suggested that “landmark” shops, recognized for their ambiance, level of service and stock quality, will likely win financial support.

Kan explained that government is working on national policies to lower taxation and rent costs for bookstores, and local governments are being encouraged to develop new ways to help.

All I can say is BRAVO!

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