Get back to basics and read!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Angela Wu, Pessy Lee and Angela Chu, Special to The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Reading on electronic devices may be convenient, but nothing can replicate the feeling of curling up with a book. To bring back the delight of reading books, EP-BOOKS (益品書屋) revolutionized the concept of traditional bookstores, opening doors in July 2016. The China Post had the pleasure of visiting the bookstore and chatting with chairman Steve Day (戴勝益). Here is an edited version of the conversation:

The China Post: With a background managing restaurant chains, how did you make the change from leading the Wowprime Group (王品集團) to opening a bookstore?

Steve Day: The motivation behind this bookstore was to bring back the simple pleasure of reading and to create a stress-free reading environment. It was also the chance for me to do something with what I love the most. I was always a bookworm and I majored in Chinese Literature in university. Opening a bookstore where everyone could enjoy reading has been my dream since then. Even when I was working at Wowprime, I did not forget that this was what I wanted to do ultimately in life.

The China Post: EP-BOOKS is unlike any other bookstore in Taiwan, can you share with us where the idea for it emerged from?

Steve Day: During my days with Wowprime, I went trekking at Mount Everest Base Camp two times on staff trips. On those occasions, it was interesting to see the differences between Asians, who were usually chatting in groups during break time, and Westerners, who often enjoyed the mountain view with a book in hand. This reminded me how crucial reading is for self-nourishment and to become a person of culture.

I want to provide a place for people to relax and read. Bookstores and libraries in Taiwan tend to make people feel stiff and self-conscious. It is awkward to read at bookstores. When you read there for three to four hours a day, there is that thought of store clerks looming in the background and staring you down for not buying anything. This takes away the fun of reading. You would not have this problem in libraries, but it wouldn't be possible to get a coffee or tea to go along with your book. The idea of EP-BOOKS stemmed from finding a way to solve both problems.

The China Post: Can you share with us how EP-BOOKS is managed and some of the challenges that you have encountered so far? How are customers reacting to this new bookstore concept?

Steve Day: It goes back to creating a reading-friendly environment. Here, the atmosphere is much more lively, which allows everyone to find their own corner to hide away and dive into a book. We have fresh flowers and a violinist playing in the background in the afternoons and a spacious reading area. We do not sell books, so there is no pressure to make a purchase. The entrance fee is NT100 and you are welcomed to stay here for as long as you like and with unlimited access to tea, coffee and other drinks.

Buying the right books that have appeal is more of a concern for me. For readers to pick up a book after the bookshelf, the topic needs to pique their curiosity to begin with, so there should also be plenty of images inside to make it easy to read. Therefore, our books fall under the categories such as aesthetics, food and dining, lifestyle, travel and children's books.

There is also the issue of establishing trust between the customers and us. We have no policies of getting your hand re-stamped for re-entry, nor do we have surveillance cameras. If we had these rules, it would be too complicated and ruin the satisfaction of savoring books. ■

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