This bookstore review by Jonathan in China reminded me just how much I miss good bookstores. They don't really exist in South Africa. In Cape Town we have a couple of good bookstores, there is the Book Lounge on Roeland Street and Clarke's on Long. Both are owned and managed by people who clearly love a good book. But those are the exceptions and both are pretty small.
Then there is Exclusive Books, a countrywide retail bookstore chain, but there is nothing Exclusive about them. Their biggest store is still the size of a large open-plan living room and the book selections are never that great. And their gay and lesbian section (if the store even has one) is always grouped with hetero sex advice, meaning together with one or two dull homosexual romance novels there are loads of books explaining to straight people how to get off.
To make matters worse books in South Africa are ridiculously expensive. Ridiculously. Not exaggerating. We were looking at a Borneo guide book here and then compared the price to ordering from Amazon and having it shipped here. It was still more than US$10 less than buying it here. A friend explained it's because South Africa taxes books as a luxury item. WTF? We're a country with terribly high illiteracy levels and books are considered a luxury?
Why is it that in the giant bookstores in countries like China, Taiwan, Thailand, and Malaysia you can find bigger English language books than in South Africa, and at better prices? Not fair.
I am looking forward to going back East and visiting Kinokuniya in Bangkok and Page One in Taipei, but sad about the fact that my friends here will still have to deal with pricey reading material from Exclusive Books.
* The image is from the blog Stephanie's Written Word, entry titled Vacation Spots.