Sun, 25 May 2003

Bookstores liven up the weekends

Debbie A. Lubis, Contributor, Jakarta

A cozy atmosphere coupled with an enchanting interior design has made major bookstores in Jakarta the best place to be either to spend a lazy Saturday or just to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

On weekends, many of Jakarta's book lovers from all walks of life swarm outlets of Gramedia and Toko Gunung Agung, the two largest national bookstore chains, which can be found in almost every mall or department store in Jakarta.

Found mostly in malls or near shopping centers, these bookstores offer a good selection of books ranging in a variety of topics as well as carrying all the latest bestsellers.

The bookstores also carry a great selection of Japanese comics, enticing the youth to come and browse.

"I enjoy coming to this store because I can read comics here all day long without having to buy one. My parents don't give me an allowance for buying comics, but I can't miss out on reading the latest story," said Hendra, 15, waving a Rp 9,500-priced comic to emphasize his point.

And Hendra is not alone: There are dozens of teenagers crowded around the comic book section while a group of adults jam the other areas, especially the magazine and tabloid section.

These readers often leave the books, comics, magazines and tabloids looking dog-eared, even though they were initially wrapped in cellophane. "We can't forbid them from reading the books or magazines because they always say that they want to check the contents before they commit to buying it," Damayanti, a store attendant, said.

In addition to the books they sell, both Gramedia and Gunung Agung also provide the best selection of stationery and office supplies, such as paper clips, pens, file folders, desks and other paper products. In some stores, they also provide a section for music cassettes, which again appeals to the younger crowd.

Meanwhile, a quieter atmosphere can be found in several international bookstore chains around Jakarta. These bookstores offer a superb selection of bestsellers and books both in English and Japanese for middle-class Indonesians and expatriates.

On any given day, the clientele can be seen leisurely browsing through the sections on business, computers, health, travel, cooking, fiction, non-fiction, graphics, interior design and children's titles as well as the selection of international magazines.

"I prefer buying the English version of books instead of the translated one even though it may mean that I have to pay double or triple the price. But it's worth it," Laika, a young executive, said.

She has almost 600 English fiction and non-fiction books in her collection.

The situation and atmosphere offered by bookstores, particularly in Jakarta, has changed rapidly with the entry of some foreign bookstores several years ago.

With the new marketing concept, bookstores not only offer a cozy atmosphere to lure customers but also provide facilities for their visitors to read books conveniently.

Most of the books are left open or people to peruse through. Even if some of the books are wrapped, bookstores often provides samples available for reading. Most of the bookstores also provide comfortable areas for children.

One of the stores, QB World Books Pondok Indah, provides a vast array of CDs and VCDs upstairs while the cafe on the first floor offers visitors refreshments. "I like to come here with my mother and father because I can play or eat while they are looking at the books," said Erlita, 8, an elementary school student.

QB World Books Pondok Indah provides a play area for children, complete with a big, comfortable sofa and a merry-go-round set up in the center so that children can play while they shop for fun things, such as body glitter or temporary tattoos.

These bookstores provide almost every genre of book, such as those on business, computers, literature, religion, science, health, cooking and others.

Although not every visitor leaves the store with a purchase, this new marketing concept has encouraged a lot of people to come into the store, which was previously thought of as a boring place to be, especially on the weekend.