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Failing bookstore turns over a new leaf in Chongqing

China Daily/Xinhua | Updated: 2017-06-05 07:41

After suffering losses for 19 consecutive years, Yang Yi, a bookstore owner in Southwest China's Chongqing, surprised everyone by deciding to invest more in his business. Using 5 million yuan ($720,000) out of his own pocket, he expanded the bookstore - moving it from its original 500 square-meter city center location to a new 1,600 sq m site in a quieter corner of the city beside the Yangtze River.

In addition to over 200,000 books, the store now houses a small amphitheater, study and meeting rooms, an art gallery, a cafe and teahouse, all blended into the broader atmosphere of a book lover's paradise.

Yang graduated from university in 1983 and worked as a university professor for five years before going into business in the early 1990s. In 1998, he invested most of his savings into a bookstore in downtown Chongqing.

"My goal was always to give back to society after I earned some money, and I decided to do that by opening a bookstore. Books made me into the man I am today and I want to give others the same opportunity," he said.

But with the rise of online shopping, e-readers and other forms of entertainment in China, Yang's bookshop has struggled ever since it opened, losing over 1 million yuan last year alone.

In order to warm up what he calls "the coldest corner" of the commercial district, Yang turned his bookstore into a cultural destination for the city's literature and art lovers. He arranged recitals, concerts, plays and book launches to draw in new customers. Gradually, the bookstore gained a reputation and foot traffic grew - especially during the weekends.

"My dream of running a bookstore has been fulfilled. Now I'm working toward another dream, which is promoting science," Yang said. "I am committed to enlightening the youth in their pursuit of science."

Scientific books are displayed prominently around the store, and scientific models have been placed on the shelves to engage youngsters.

After years of continuous effort, scientific titles have started hitting the store's best-seller list, which Yang said is rare for Chinese bookshops.

His persistence and hard work have been recognized by the local government, which awarded him a grant to support the city's brick-and-mortar bookstores. The district government even established a branch library inside the bookstore, with Yang looking after its management.

One regular is Huang Yuxuan, who enjoys spending many afternoons in the library, which is located up a spiral staircase in the center of the store.

"I come here at least twice a week. I'm so glad this bookstore exists," she said.

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