Myanmar’s Book Plaza: A Hope That Consumers Will ‘Spend Time Inside the Shop’

In News by Dennis Abrams

Although one of its inspirations didn’t live to see it open, Yangon Book Plaza is intended to expand traditional ideas of bookselling in Myanmar.

In downtown Yangon. Image – iStockphoto: Lim Jessica

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

A ‘Media Supermarket’
At the Myanmar Times, Nandar Aung reports on two poets, Ko Myay Hmone Lwin and Sayar Min Lu, who dreamed about opening a literary hub in Yangong.

Myay Hmone Lwin tells the paper, “We talked about [Min Lu’s] short story called ‘Sar Nal Zin Supermet’ (‘The Media Supermarket’)…We imagined it could happen one day.”

But when Myanmar’s largest book plaza opens at the end of the month, Min Lu will not be in attendance–the poet and author died of lung cancer in 2013 and won’t see the 20,000-square-foot Yangon Book Plaza that aims to be a “hive for all things literary.”

Myay Hmone Lwin himself is no stranger to the world of publishing and books: He founded Nga Doe Sar Pay publishing house in 2013, reportedly losing three times his initial investment. In the article, he tells Nandar Aung, “The books I published were bestsellers by famous writers. I didn’t know why I kept losing money. I found out after I attended several workshops and discussion about our system of book publishing with experts from overseas.”

In 2016, he launched We Distribution, a door-to-door book delivery system. And within three months of its opening, he says he was distributing “some 20,000 books around the country.”
As he traveled the country, however, he tells Nandar Aung that he found bookstores in Myanmar lacking in innovation and ambiance, particularly compared to those in neighboring countries:

“I found most of the bookstores in Myanmar only sell books–not like in overseas countries. I don’t want to compare with European countries, but in Singapore, Japan or Thailand, they offer their books in comfortable ways–like putting in a café…

“Books are not cloth or goods. Selling cloth, it’s easy to make business. Books contain thoughts and feelings. You need to attract the customer to spend time inside the shop. I hope my book plaza will fill that gap.”

A bookshop, Myay Hmone Lwin says in the Myanmar Times piece, is not just for buying books, but a place where booklovers can spend time with friends.  And he says he’s hopeful that Yangon Book Plaza is only a first step towards shaking up the nation’s book culture.

The full story from Nandar Aung at the Myanmar Times is here.
For more on Myanmar, see our recent Book Publishing Market Overview.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.