Written by Kit Chan
Translated by Venus Purnama
Photos by Kit Chan
Ricky Lai runs a bookstore quite different from the mainstream: the best spots on the shelves are reserved for page-turners, even if they're not new releases or best sellers. Space is also given to independent zines, which are still considered niche in Hong Kong. “Books that don't fit in the major bookstores sell quite well here, because people come looking for them,” he says, shrugging his shoulder.
The way he classifies his books is also one of a kind. “The Most Beautiful Books” section features award-winning designs from China, rarely found in other bookstores. Some books are classified under the names of designers. “Aaron Nieh, is the icon of Taiwan's new generation of designers, and deserves to have his own section,” he explains.
Such an approach was not just meant to be an act, but a way of answering his doubt: if a book couldn't meet its Miss/Mr. Right, does it mean it's not worth existing ?
Living in the age where everybody reads on their mobile phones and printed books losing grip, isn't it too risky to run such an eccentric bookstore?
“The feel of paper is irreplaceable.” Ricky said with a sonorous tone. “A dog-ear or wrinkle on the page brings back the reader's feelings and memories, which are for real.”
His firm belief grew from his experience as a writer. He once wrote a book called“69N 51W” (the longitude and latitude of Greenland), detailing his extraordinary road trip to Iceland and Greenland. Under extreme circumstances, he spent nights conquering snowy mountains, camping all alone.
“Greenland's suicide rate is extremely high, with a lifeless atmosphere, which makes it an ideal place to contemplate life.” By taking risks through this Arctic adventure, he pushed his own limits and became stronger.
Though the book changed his life and earned him a best new writer's award, it didn't survive the streamlined bookselling process of major bookstores. “Books would be on shelf for only two weeks, if they didn't sell well, that would be it.”So when Ricky finally had his own bookstore, he decided to give all books a second chance, shelving them up to six months, though it is another risk to take.
So does Ricky's life motto goes, as seen on the cover of“69N 51W”,“the most difficult journey... is the one that lies within ourselves.”
Address: Open Quote, S401, 4/F, Staunton, PMQ