Friday, January 2, 2009

Books + Music + Lifestyle + Cafe

With the unfortunate closure of the 70-year-old local bookstore The Shanghai Book Co. barely few days ago, I'm curious if Singapore still able to accommodate another personalized bookstore, especially in Chinese stream? Several local, traditional independent bookstores such as Grassroots Book Room and Select Books are trying hard to make ends meet solely by selling books. Few other viable indie bookstores which have mini-restaurants or cafés carry only English-oriented books.

Despite the worrying economic downturn, a new bookstore, Cat Socrates, was opened for nearly 2 months on the 3rd level at Bras Basah Complex, our renowned "book town". This nicely and deliciously deco'd store not only carries a nice selection of Chinese books and magazines on creative design, photography, film, arts as well as anything related to aesthetics of living , rare independent and underground music CD, novelty Lifestyle goodies, but also has a few tables and chairs comfortably placed near the rear end - without a doubt, a mini café!

The owners are a married couple, Zhang Zhen and Jiang Hanglei, both from Shanghai and less than 30 years old.

I've yet to visit the bookstore in person though. By looking through the online images, I would say that the deco, the lighting, even the display of books and music CD have a certain style, full of modernity. It is nevertheless a tasty, niche bookstore that does not follow the crowd, and provides an alternative level of experience.

According to Jiang, initially they just wanted to sell books and beverages, but decided that this would not last long, after all, with the by and by poorer reading culture among the local Chinese, they really need to carry more products like music CD, apparels, stationery, gift items to attract the young generation, hopefully will infect them with the charm of the Chinese texts, prompting them to read the books in turn.

Being small has limitations, but I believe, the owners can turn it into advantage with sincere and personalized services. As a result of taking care of their own bookstore, they naturally are, or should be, well aware of the characteristics of their products, and ready to recommend a good book and good music to customer.

So far, they had organized a few photo-sharing sessions, art film screenings and unplugged concerts in the shop. They also interact with their customers through their online blog, keeping track and absorbing the latest trends in the first time.

Besides EarShot and Casual Poet, this would definitely be my alternate choice to get away from the hustle and bustle on the street, to have a steaming cup of cuppa, and of course, with a good read. How about you, my friends?

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