Second-hand bookstores losing the plot

Second-hand bookstores losing the plot

The story is a familiar one. The book business is going bust.

But while much has been made about the closures of behemoths such as Borders and Page One, little notice has been paid to the quiet demise of second-hand bookshops.

For sure, they have not gone unscathed. Just yesterday, a stalwart of the second-hand book business, Pro Saint Book Store, announced that it would be holding a clearance sale from tomorrow, ahead of its last day on Nov 30.

Owner Alley Ong said he decided to close the 22-year-old business at the Bras Basah Complex because of poor sales.

In the mid-1990s, before e-commerce and e-books, the shop was making profits of about $10,000 a month. It makes about $3,000 now.

Mr Ong said: "It is not worth the effort. Our business is in decline. Better run before it is too late."

Pro Saint's announcement came as Mr Alvin Tan, director of heritage institutions at the National Heritage Board, was starting a project to document the second-hand book business before it disappeared. He had noticed that a number of shops were closing.

Over a month, Mr Tan searched the archives and the Internet, and talked to shop owners who pointed him to others.

"Many of them are no longer around," he said, adding that research has been tough because of the very few written records.

"Because of this, we were unable to ascertain how many of these shops existed in the past."

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