Graphic bookstore having big sale

SINGAPORE - The art and design community here has rallied around Basheer Graphic Books after the iconic bookstore posted a notice online declaring a sale and asking for financial support.

In two Facebook posts this week, it said it would be offering a 20 to 80 per cent discount off all interior design books until the end of this month, and selected books would sell for $3, $5 and $8.

The post stated: "With bookstores struggling all over the world, we are not spared from it too and we do require everyone's help in the coming months more than ever. Do help us while we ponder our next move in a difficult book industry now."

Basheer's post comes after another home-grown bookstore, BooksActually, announcing a 25 per cent storewide sale this month to raise funds to buy a permanent home for the shop.

While Basheer's post sparked worries that the shop was shutting down, owner Abdul Nasser, 50, says that it is not.

He says: "When the story got out, we received a lot of e-mail and calls. Everybody wanted to know what was going on and if we are closing. We are not closing but we wanted the creative industry to know that we need a little more support, so that we can stay alive and keep going for a few more years."

He also cites a lack of space as a reason for the sale, adding: "Our inventory is getting big because we import books from overseas on a non-returnable basis. We needed to clear some stock."

The store has been an institution at Bras Basah Complex since it was opened in 1992 by his father, Mr Basheer Ahamed. It stocks a wide range of art and design books and magazines from renowned art publishers such as Phaidon and Taschen.

Basheer Graphic Books also has three outlets in Malaysia, as well as one store each in Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Mr Abdul says that business at the overseas branches is "up and down", with the Hong Kong branch in particular facing pressure as rent for the store has increased.

He says he knows that bookstores all over the world are facing a similar squeeze due to the popularity of online retailers such as Amazon and Book Depository.

He adds: "Borders and Page One have closed, and this is happening not only in Singapore, but also around the world. In London, great bookshops with over 100 years of history are gone.

"Now, only the big boys - the online companies - can play the game because they deliver all over the world."

He is toying with the idea of subletting part of the shop's 1,600 sq ft space to get some revenue, although he has not yet found a tenant.

His regular customers include designer Joshua Lee, 29, who says Basheer is "the only fully design- focused bookstore".

Mr Lee plans to check out the sale as he feels that Basheer's selection of books is well curated. He says: "They understand designers enough to know what publications we are looking for and need. And whenever I am browsing a particular topic, they are able to recommend a broader yet more concise selection of titles."

He adds that buying books online is just not the same. "In the digital space, it's harder to get a sense of a book because you can't fully browse through its contents. You've got more options online but there's also a lot more clutter, irrelevant titles, and reviews and ratings that sometimes don't mean a thing."


Where: Block 231, Bain Street, 04-19, Bras Basah Complex

When: Till June 30, Mon to Sat, 10am to 8pm; Sun, 11am to 6.30pm

Info: Go to or call 6336-1917 or 6338-1916

This article was published on June 14 in The Straits Times.

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