Wanted: A street for bookworms

Wanted: A street for bookworms
Ready to read: Ha Noi has some streets housing book shops, but readers still need places where they can buy and exchange books and get involved in literary discussions.

HA NOI - Author Nguyen Van Hoc has suggested that Trang Tien Street in the heart of the capital be developed into a permanent street for book lovers, with areas for discussion, perusing publications and presentations by authors.

Hoc said Viet Nam Book Day on April 24 could be used to announce the decision.

There are already half a dozen popular - and crowded - book shops in the area that could provide the basis for such a development. They range from upmarket shops selling weighty tomes in English and French to ever popular shops selling Vietnamese titles.

"Books should have a worthy position," he said, "we need not only one but many book streets to promote the reading culture and satisfy a love for reading by the people. Ha Noi is the centre of culture and knowledge of the country, nevertheless the existing shops in Nguyen Xi and Dinh Le in the city centre are over-crowded places," he said.

Nguyen Anh Nguyen, a passionate reader, spends his weekends in book shops. He glances through the pages of many publications for hours before deciding on one to buy.

However, he dislikes being pushed and shoved by shops full of visitors. The cramped space and noise distracts him from his browsing, so Nguyen and other book lovers are now pushing for more open space dedicated to those with a passion for reading.

"With the increasing number of book companies and publishing houses, books are released every day," he said, "I feel dazzled when I look at titles on bookshelves."

"A smart title and an eye-catching cover may hide terrible content, so I always spend time skimming through the pages before buying," he said. "I think serious readers need a space to satisfy their needs."

While HCM City People's Committee has dedicated some streets, including Nguyen Hue, Mac Thi Buoi and Ngo Duc Ke as streets for books during festivals, Ha Noi doesn't have one area set aside for the reading culture, said Nguyen.

Ha Noi-based readers often go to centrally located Nguyen Xi, Dinh Le and Hoang Quoc Viet streets because they have many bookshops. "But they are known as places to buy and sell only. We need places like in HCM City where readers can also discuss books and exchange them," Nguyen said.

It's said that the popularity of reading is on the decline among young people because there are now so many other forms of entertainment and learning, but Nguyen doesn't agree. "Young people like me still love reading," he said. "We can read on smart phones and computers instead of buying books."

"In my opinion, if readers in Ha Noi have book streets, the reading culture will be promoted," he said, adding that book streets would help introduce publishing houses and good books.

"Parents can feel secure when they take their children to book streets," said Tran Thi Mai, a mother of two. "They can search for good books among the thousands for sale, including many unauthorised, poor quality books."

Historian Le Van Lan agreed on the need to set up book streets in Ha Noi. "The love of reading has been transferred down through the generations," he said, "It's the fine tradition of every nation. Building book streets in a 1,000-year-old capital is necessary to promote the reading culture," he said.

Under the theme Books

From the Past to the Present, a festival will be held from April 20-26 to celebrate Viet Nam's Book Day on April 21 and World Book and Copyright Day on April 23. It is intended to provide an opportunity for authors to introduce their works.

The festival will offer young readers an opportunity to learn more about Vietnamese history and culture through games and interactive activities. A series of award winning books will also be presented.

Additionally, visitors will be able to take part in educational games and buy books at discounted prices.

The highlight of this year's festival is an exhibition on Viet Nam's official archives and printing techniques throughout the ages. Visitors will learn of the development of books from writings on dried and flattened leaves, on stone, wood, bronze - and of course, paper.

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