Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Essay: A Quick Run-Down on Bookstores in the Philippines Part 4

Every Wednesday, I'll have an essay or a feature on any topic that catches my fancy!

Publisher-Bookstore Hybrids

This isn't an actual term but rather one I made up to refer to this model of being both a publisher and having a physical store. In actuality, this isn't such an innovative thing. International publishers, especially the small presses, sell books on their website after all. Unfortunately in the Philippines, while some publishers have started selling books online, for the most part it's still unexplored territory.

Another reason why Filipinos would go to the publisher/store rather than the local bookstore is that a lot of local books can be harder to obtain compared to international books. A bookstore will only stock a few number of local titles; only one shelf (sometimes I mean this literally but more often than not, it's a category or genre of its own) is devoted to "Filipiniana" while various other genres have their own shelves. (Occasionally, you'll find special allotments in the children's section for Filipino books.) Add that to the fact that local bookstores don't give you much rewards for buying local books (the discounts they usually give doesn't apply to consigned items--in this case local books).

University Presses

Here's one example of a publisher-bookstore hybrid. Many of our top universities (UP, Ateneo, La Salle, UST, etc.) have their own presses. For the most part, they publish critical fiction and nonfiction titles that more commercial publishers wouldn't touch. My alma matter, Ateneo, for example, has published Joy Dayrit's short story collection, The Walk, as well as Dean Francis Alfar's novel Salamanca. The University of the Philippines (UP) has published books novels such as Alfred Yuson's The Great Philippine Energy Jungle Cafe and Gina Apostol's Bibliolepsy. An anthology I highly recommend is University of Santo Tomas (UST) Publishing House's A Different Voice: the PEN Anthology of Fiction by Young Filipino Writers.

Now Alfar and Yuson have a token presence in bookstores but as for the rest, most likely you'll only obtain them in the university press's bookstore. On one hand, that can be an intimidating experience for new readers because the said bookstore is affiliated with a university and sometimes, entering university premises is not as easy as it sounds (ever tried entering La Salle without being either a faculty or a student?). On the other hand, universities with various "branches" (i.e. UP, Ateneo) around the country might be more accessible to those living in the southern provinces.

Much like many of the publishers featured here, these publisher-bookstore hybrids all converge on events like the annual Manila International Book Fair and the Academic Book Fair.


Various publishers do have physical stores which sells the books they publish or distribute. There's CentralBooks for example, a Print-on-Demand publisher. Or OMF Literature, a Christian publisher/distributor (they also currently happen to be on sale). And come book fair season, even the "bigger" publishers will be renting a booth and selling their books. So rather than just depending on the local bookstore to obtain books for you, local bibliophiles might want to pay a visit to the publishers personally. Some actual sells books on their website (which is the case with Adarna House and Anvil Publishing).

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