Việt Nam’s book market thrives in digital age

Fahasa, a popular book distributor in Việt Nam for the last 40 years, has announced that its 100th store will open on Thursday at the Aeon Long Biên shopping mall in Hà Nội.

The event is a historic milestone for both the company and Việt Nam’s book industry, which has been invaded by digital publications over the past decade.

It is worth noting that just over ten years ago, in 2006, Fahasa owned a modest 18 stores in Hồ Chí Minh City, Bình Dương Province and Đồng Nai Province.

Phương Nam Corp (PNC), another major player in the domestic book market, has also unveiled its plan to open two other ‘book cities’ in Hồ Chí Minh City by the end of this year, following the success of its first in Bình Dương.

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A Fahasa bookstore in Hồ Chí Minh City

A cultural space

On Sunday, hundreds of youths filled the Nhã Nam Books N’ Coffee Saigon book café in Hồ Chí Minh City’s Bình Thạnh District for a talk on the country’s national high school exam.

The show is held every Sunday, each week featuring a different topic revolving around equipping Vietnamese youths with the skills they need for life.

“These types of shows require a big enough venue so that the speaker and audience can interact with each other, and every topic is connected to a set of books, so there’s no better place for it to be held than at a bookstore.”

Said Hòa Bình, Nhã Nam’s media representative.

The 200-square-meter Nhã Nam book café was launched in May to overwhelming public response, proving once again the path taken by local bookstores in their quest to maintain public interest in the printed book.

“Visiting bookstores is an experience of its own.”

Said Phạm Minh Thuận, CEO of Fahasa.

“It’s where children get their weekend gifts, where parents take photos with their kids, and where events are organized in a friendly, book-filled space with enthusiastic employees available to support customers.

You can’t get that from an online store.”

According to Thuận, the global surge in the popularity of digital books began in 2007 and lasted until 2010.

However, Thuận said, since 2012 traditional print books have made an impressive comeback, at least in the domestic market, and are currently reporting steady growth alongside ebooks.

The CEO added that digital books and print books both have their own audience and therefore would not thrive at the cost of the other.

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A Nhã Nam Book Cafe in Hồ Chí Minh City

Flying-color revenues

Despite rising competition from digital books, traditional bookstore operators in Việt Nam continue to report increased revenues.

PNC reported VND279.4 billion (US$12.31 million) in turnover last year, a 23-percent increase on 2015.

Though choosing not to disclose raw numbers, Đông Á Book Company said they had experienced steady growth since 2014, with 2015 revenues 15-25 percent more than the previous year.

Kim Đồng Publishing House, which targets children and young adults, realized an astounding 161-percent increase in revenue in 2016 compared to 2015.

“Imagine a little boy buying his first book from a small bookstore in his grade school years, who would then meet up with his friends there during high school, and even re-visit the shop years after studying abroad to find his past. Bookstores have become a time capsule for customers.”

Said Dương Thanh Hoài, deputy director of Nhã Nam.

Source: Tuổi Trẻ News

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