If you are looking to buy books in Singapore, this is a good place to go. It has several book shops selling new or used books. It also has print shops, art supply shops, stationery shops, and shops selling musical instruments and antiques.
Within the last couple of years, these colorful square signs were added to convey the complex’s status as a cultural hub of sorts.
Bras Basah Complex * Art * Dance * Explore * Sport * Book
One of my pet peeves is lists of things that aren’t all the same part of speech. “Art, Dance, Explore, Sports, Book” is a fantastic example. See below for why.
I enjoyed visiting four different bookshops in downtown Melbourne.
Hill of Content Bookshop sells new books. I was surprised to see that they had two full-height shelves on the subject of “Critical Thinking”. I was even more surprised when I noticed that the adjacent subject was “Religion”, and had only been allotted one full-height shelf. Ouch.
The Paperback sells only new books, but the space felt cram-packed with an eclectic mix of books the way a used book shop feels.
Kay Craddock is a longstanding Antiquarian Bookseller with a charming collection of hundreds of owl figurines perched on the shelves alongside the books. The place reminded me somewhat of the venerable Atlanta Vintage Books, where I used to work.
City Basement Books sells used and rare books, and after emerging from a confusing tangle of twists and turns among the shelves, I bought three.
This bookshop in Clementi does not sell ANY books.
None. Zero. Not even the bestsellingest of the bestsellers, like you’d find in an airport.
What does it sell? A third of the shop is electronics, another third is stationery, and the last third is full of rectangular objects that are made from paper, ink, and glue and resemble books but are actually test-preparation materials, created for the sole purpose of keeping up with the Joneses—or rather, getting ahead of the Lees and the Tans.
I scowl but I feel like wailing.
THIS is what a bookstore should look like.
That’s the Barnes & Noble near where my parents live. It’s not the biggest bookstore in the city. It’s just a bookstore. One of many—a couple dozen, at the very least.
Okay, so probably all those retail bookstores are struggling, and maybe someday, possibly even soon, Barnes & Noble will die. Certainly many companies have fallen and will fall before the might of the mighty Amazon.
What Barnes & Noble will certainly never do, however, is turn into some sort of awkward amalgamation of Best Buy, Staples, and Kumon.
Hopefully other Popular stores in Singapore will continue to sell books as well as electronics, stationery, and test prep stuff. The one at Marine Parade still does.
Brick-and-mortar bookshops in Singapore (as elsewhere) face high rent and stiff competition from online sellers, so they’ve been dropping like flies. The major chains and a handful independents are still scraping by.
The Kinokuniya at Ngee Ann City is Singapore’s biggest bookstore, but I’d say this is the runner-up. (I hear there’s a huge Times outlet at Punggol that might be bigger… I should visit!) This is the Bras Basah branch of a Singapore retail chain which is called Popular, presumably due to the Chinese habit of naming businesses with aspirational happy adjectives for good luck.
The place wasn’t looking so popular on a Monday afternoon, though, and I only went there to look for a specific kind of 2017 calendar, which they didn’t have. (Apparently the second week of January is too late to buy a calendar/diary/planner thing if you want a good selection to pick from; luckily, I eventually found what I was looking for at NBC Stationery at Raffles City.)
Despite the square footage, this shop didn’t have what I would call an impressive selection. There’s a whole floor of “assessment books”, locally produced test preparation workbooks for preschool through university, and six walls of “favourite characters” products (movie and television tie-ins), but only one or two shelves of picture books…
I went to the National Library to write some snail mail in peace and quiet. When the mail was ready, I went next door to drop it in the postbox at Bras Basah Complex. Then I got snared by the used book bookshop on the corner there. It must have been at least an hour later that I re-emerged with SG$20 less in my wallet and these six books in my backpack.
I purposely did not go in any used bookstores while I was in the U.S. (though I admit I was tempted). Still, somehow I wound up returning from Denver to Singapore with these 21 used books. I bought them at two thrift stores where I went to buy pants. (Trousers? Whatever.)
These books cost me less than US$23.00 in total. (For the sake of comparison, note that the website of the most prominent bookstore in Singapore, Kinokuniya, lists new copies of the hardcover Four for the equivalent of about US$19.00.)
From a content standpoint, the book I’m most excited about is probably the psychology textbook. From a collecting standpoint, I’m most excited about Wolf Wing and the Percy Jackson books, because they match books I already own.
I spotted this hilarious Engrish sign at Book Mart at The Central. It is (I assume) not a joke but rather the best translation they could manage.
Thank you for usually favoring it more. This time I will perform store remodeling construction in the following schedule. I am so sorry, but a store is closed until November 3. I really trouble it, but it, please be understood.
I think it means:
Dear customers, thank you for your continued support. The shop will be closed for remodeling until November 3. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.
If you are looking for a better translation for “please be understood,” consider:
Thank you for understanding.
Thank you for your understanding.
Thank you for your kind understanding.