Once upon a time, the world’s largest bookstore was situated in London; it was know as the Foyels. It was a 4-storey shop. But now its the Shenzhen Book City. Actually, it is a complex of shopping mall in books and related items. In recent years, large book centers in this city has been sprang up like mushrooms (雨後春笋) indeed, and each one claimed to be larger than the other.
The above illustrated bookstore was opened in Nov 2007, but when I took the taxi over there in Apr 2009, the driver still could not find the way, and had to call back to the headquarter for help. On arrival, the complex was so large that he could not find the main entrance and again called back for help. For just across the square, there’s a concert hall and a library which is easy to be mixed up. On entering the main entrance, I took 10 minutes to find the inquiry counter. For the counter was not situated at the main entrance.
The complex was divided into north section and south section. The inquiry counter was situated 100 meters away from the main entrance. It is situated at the north section, but as soon as I entered, I turned into the south section and that why it was missed. Actually, for the whole complex, they don’t have an enquiry counter; it is enquiry or customer service counter for the book centre only. You have to pass through the music center and several coffee shops and fast food shops before you can find the service counter.
The core of the complex can be divided into 3 sections, the book centre, the music centre and the art design centre. While the rest of the area is also quite large, even larger than the core. Shopping corridors around these cores located both on ground level and second floor level. Shops including various kind of eastern and western food, besides that, related business such as computer shops, artistic shops, embroidery, calligraphy, language learning centre, singing centre and hair salon also. There’s even an individual bookstore provides a 24-hour service.
Actually, they hold certain activities both indoor and outdoor. They would have speech on popular subjects such as health or public transport and omnifarious (五花八門) items on daily life. They would also have debate after the speech which can lead to hassle (激烈而持久的爭論). In colloquial Mandarin it is know as punch-up (群毆). For outdoor activities in the square, they would also have booths for various kinds of games and commercial promotions, they are much welcome even under the blazing sun.
Book cities in Taiwan are divided into numerous booths, every printing house or bookstores would have their own booths. But in the Shenzhen Book-city, there’s only one store and books are divided by their own category as that of a library. When you are having a bird-eyes’ view, the appearance is similar to a library also.
Most of the books were printed in mainland and thus the price would be cheaper, about one-third to one-fourth of the price in Hong Kong. But sometimes they also sell the original edition that this printed in western countries; the price is just the same as Hong Kong. A lot of students would like to go to bookstores in Shenzhen to buy textbooks or reference books, for they are much cheaper. Even if you put into consideration of traveling expense, it’s still cheaper. But of course you have to buy several books at a time. Basically, if a set of TOEFL books in Hong Kong would cost about HK$2,000, you need only to pay HK$500 only. So even if you add HK$100-200 more for traveling as well as meal. It is still worthwhile to go. But the time cost will be a whole evening or afternoon.
As for individual text books in the university or graduate school, they are not as popular as TOEFL books, so sometimes you may not find it. No one can ensure you can buy enough books to cover the range of traveling expense. But if one or two students are going together for several students, that means they are buying books for different departments like College of Literature, Science, Geography……etc, it will be more worthwhile, but when in such a case, it will be very heavy indeed, since you have to carry a long way back.
So what would I suggest ? If you want to buy text-books, it is better to buy it in Hong Kong. For if you miss it, you can go the other day or the following week. If you go up so far, no one can ensure you can find the definite books. But if you want to buy reference books, it doen’t matter, even if you miss this one you can find another one to replace it. Another way is that you can go with 2 or 3 close friends for a short trip to Shenzhen, especially those students came from the north, they seldom have chance to visit this city, which claimed to have the highest GDP in China, or you can say the general citizen in this city is the richest in China. That means you are on a trip for the purpose of traveling and buying books for your own and your good friends, it is surely a worthwhile trip. It surely can give you a meaningful afternoon and you will find that evening if you have two meals inside this book city, time still passes away so swiftly.
Please scroll on the right hand side of this page, and you will see a column named “Categories”. Just click on the item”Mainland China” and you can see my related article concerning this topic.
This article also appears in my other blog of http://renren.com/danielyue2009 and normally will be renewed on Saturday evening .