The Innovation of Philippine Bookstore Chains
One of the recent news items is that Borders declared bankruptcy, while over at Australia, Angus & Robertson is similarly in danger. I'm not here to discuss what Borders or Angus & Robertson did wrong. What I do want to talk about, however, are Philippine bookstore chains.
Until the mid 1990s, there were two major bookstore chains: National Bookstore and Goodwill Bookstore. That's not to say there weren't independent bookstores at the time: La Solidardid Bookshop is an old independent bookstores, going as far back as 1965. Popular Bookstore is also one of those legacy franchises that didn't quite transition into a major chain. But let's go back to the two prominent bookstores of the time*.
If you were a discerning book lover, you hated both bookstore chains. There are two reasons for this. One is that they were a monopoly: it's not that they had an awful selection of books, but you were pretty much stuck with what they had. This was before the Internet so while they did have book ordering services, who knew what books to order? You pretty much had no choice but to consume what was on the shelves (this is the reason why at one point, I owned several dozenDragonlance books, simply because there really was nothing else to buy at the time when it came to fantasy). Suffice to say, between the two bookstores, you had a small selection to choose from (pretty much today's independent bookstores have a wider variety compared to what they had back then). The other reason is perhaps more aesthetic. We've all heard of bookstores from abroad, whether it's Barnes & Noble or Kinokuniya. Neither National Bookstore or Goodwill Bookstore fit that image. In fact, foreigners would probably be shocked if they entered a shop called National Bookstore only to discover that the common commodity being sold aren't books but school supplies**. Yes, you heard that right: school supplies. And to a certain extent, only slightly more...
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