TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Multiple independent, brick-and-mortar bookstores in Taiwan have closed their doors on "Singles' Day," which falls on Wednesday (Nov. 11), as part of a boycott of e-commerce shops that offer special discounts on books.
Dozens of popular bookstores across Taiwan, including Bleu&Book, Youhe Book, and TaKao Books, had announced their plans to close on Wednesday to express their dissatisfaction over book “discount battles” with large e-commerce stores. A hashtag promoting widespread bookstore closure on Nov. 11 has recently been circulating among independent bookstores and their supporters on social media.
Image with hashtag protesting discounted books online. (Facebook screenshot, Youhe Book photo)
To commemorate Singles' Day, large e-commerce enterprises are launching big sales for miscellaneous products, including books. This has angered physical bookstores and publishing houses, which consider discount battles a threat to their survival and harmful to the entire publishing industry in the long run.
The boycott of online businesses began when publisher Squirrel Culture decided to withdraw their products from momo.com Inc., one of the e-commerce giants in Taiwan. The online store was planning to offer as much as 66 percent off for books during Singles' Day.
Even though the company is currently not asked to absorb the costs of sales put on by the platform, offering huge discounts to boost book sales is not a healthy model for the publishing industry in the long-term, Lai Kaili (賴凱俐), who is the publisher and chief editor of Squirrel Culture, said on Monday via a Facebook post.
Since then, independent bookstores have followed suit. Initiated by Le BallonRouge, dozens of independent bookstores have banded together to close their stores for one day on Wednesday.
When asked to comment on the protest, Culture Minister Lee Yung-te (李永得) said on Wednesday the ministry fully supports independent bookstores and their business operations, but it also respects e-commerce shops’ decisions to hold sales.
The ministry has long provided assistance and incentives to independent bookstores in Taiwan, such as subsidizing their book orders and including them into the Arts Fun vouchers, which were distributed in July by the Ministry of Culture for the public to partake in cultural activities.
Culture Minister Lee Yung-te (CNA photo)
The voucher is part of the government’s plan to revive businesses in the art and cultural industry, which has been greatly impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. More and more bookstore owners in Taiwan, facing competition from large e-commerce companies and increasingly popular e-books, have expanded their shops into cafes.