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Their Affinity with Books
The bookstore industry in Singapore has weathered a century of changes and challenges, be it brought along by transient trends, fluctuation of social structures, or education reforms. These changes and challenges also threaten the very existence of books. But are they really crises or opportunities? How did the pioneers of the bookstore industry turn these crises into opportunities?

As part of the Singapore Memory Projects’ “irememberBookstores” campaign, Chou Sing Chu Foundation and Nan Chiau High School jointly organised a lively “press conference” for a group of inquisitive budding student journalists. zbCOMMA, Singapore Press Holdings’ weekly student newspaper, was on site to cover the “press conference”. In the article, Their Affinity with Books in the 24 September 2014 issue of zbCOMMA, it was reported that the 25 students from the Higher Chinese classes proved themselves as the new blood of the press, holding their own in a battle of words with three veteran booksellers – Popular Holdings’ Group CEO Mr C.N. Chou (周曾锷), Books Kinokuniya’s store and merchandising director Mr Kenny Chan (陈华建), and Times the Bookshop’s founder Mr Rudolf Phua (潘鸿阳).

All three veteran booksellers shared their optimistic outlook on the future of print books and physical bookstores, believing in a future for reading as long as the industry continues to re-invent itself. With eyes set on the bright future ahead, understanding the past will further boost our confidence for the future. Not one to forget his roots, Mr Chou highlighted that it was his desire to follow his father’s aspirations that he had founded Chou Sing Chu Foundation in his father’s name; promoting Chinese culture, education and language to ensure a firm foundation for the future of local Chinese culture.

Chou Sing Chu Foundation had organised this “press conference” to create an opportunity for students to better understand the development of our local bookstore industry. Such an offbeat approach might inspire some of the student journalists to pursue a career in journalism in the future. But more importantly, we hope that we have closed the growing gap between the younger generations and the local cultural history; preserving the island’s collective memories of the local bookstore industry together.