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The Delights of Used Bookstores

mini-used-books.jpgBooks and I are best friends. I cannot walk past a bookstore without entering and of course purchasing a few titles. It’s the same when I am on the road. I am forever on the lookout for second-hand bookstores in which I can rummage and find that elusive tome treasure. No matter what island you travel to in Indonesia you will always find a second-hand bookstore down the side-streets or on the major roads. A lot of these books were given, sold or traded with the owners by tourists and travellers. I know of people who go away on a trip and inevitably buy a few books at the airport [creating excess weight to carry] and more often then not, discard them. This is where the second-hand bookstore comes in handy. Trade them in!. Allow another traveller to enjoy the book(s) you enjoyed.

Here’s an interesting article about second-hand bookstores in Bandung that I will definitely be visiting when I am in the city of flowers next:

Finding Treasures in Bandung’s Used Bookstores

After listening to my friend Naomi talk about a secondhand bookstore she happened upon in Siliwangi, Bandung, I was curious to know more.

Noami said from the very moment she pushed the door open and walked inside, she felt a great calm wash over her as she entered a room dominated by cream and brown colors, with jazz music softly playing in the background. She was instantly drawn to the bookshelves; the books seemed to be calling her to come hither. In this space, Naomi became oblivious to time according to Juliana Harsianti.

Reading Lights is the name of the secondhand bookshop that Naomi was speaking of.

Regular visitors to this bookshop stop by several times a week to enjoy the atmosphere and indulge themselves in the hundreds of books on display.

The books are arranged by genre: romance novels, literary works, biographies, books on social problems, magazines and children books. All the books, despite being secondhand, are clean and have been placed in covers. People spend hours here browsing for literary treasures.

Naomi, much to her delight, stumbled across In Cold Blood by Truman Capote on one visit to the store, a book she had been looking for for quite a long time.

Meanwhile, her friend found The French Lieutenant’s Woman at the same shop after almost giving up searching for it at other bookstores.

Antoni, who helps manage Reading Lights, said the bookshop once sold a first edition copy of Seven Years in Tibet and a bundle of British Punch magazines from the 1800s*

After hunting for books at Reading Lights, there’s no need to go home just yet. A visit to another secondhand book store at a shop-house on Jl. Ciumbuleuit can uncover more gems.

Directly in front of Parahyangan University campus and on the second floor above Circle K, you will find Omunium.

While the interior of the Reading Lights shop is dominated by neutral colors, the interior of Omunium is dominated by black, offering an almost Gothic atmosphere.

However, for comic lovers and those in the architectural and interior design fields, this place is a haven where hundreds of comics and books on the two fields can be found.

Adi, a graphic designer from Bandung, said he was able to complete his Tintin and Lucky Luke comic collections by rummaging through the comics for sale at Omunium. It is also here that Adi found first and special editions of Superman and Batman comics.

Iit Sukmawati, the manager of Omunium, originally only wanted to run a shop that sold ordinary used books. She never thought of specializing in selling comics and books on interior design.
“The places where I hunted for used books happened to offer me comics and interior design books,” she said.

Visitors to Omunium and Reading Lights can find books that may no longer be sold in other bookstores or markets, and books from their childhoods that they can share with their children or keep as mementos.

Both Antoni and Iit say they set up their bookshops out of a love for books.

“At first I only wanted to share with other people the books that I had read and that had created a special memory for me,” said Iit.
“Many people have asked me if I regret selling all the books in my collection. I may have regretted selling some, but the pay-off (for me) is when I see people’s happy faces upon finding a book they have been searching for,” she said.

Many people come to these two bookshops not only because they sell unique books but also because the prices of the books are relatively inexpensive. Foreign novels, for example, are priced between Rp 35,000 and Rp 45,000 at Reading Lights, while books on architecture and interior design are available for between Rp 150,000 and Rp 200,000 at Omunium.

Reading Lights provides comfortable surroundings for its visitors, who can enjoy reading a book while sitting on a sofa or on benches in the store. Thirsty customers can order beverages like tea or coffee and snacks. Reading Lights even sells beverages with unique names that relate to books, such as a “Orhan Pamuk” coffee or a “Hansel and Gretel” tea.

At Omunium, where many visitors are university students, a large carpet with pillows dominates the center of the main room. Visitors can read, relax and exchange stories there over an iced drink.

Omunium and Reading Lights are not only places where people can hunt for used books; they are also places where people can escape from their daily routines.

“Quite a lot of people initially come here only to drink coffee and read books … but later they become interested in buying the books available here,” said Antoni.

This is indeed the hope of Antoni and Iit; that one does not have to spend a lot of money to enjoy books. In addition, they say, reading a used book also allows the reader to share a memory with the book’s previous owner. This is exactly the philosophy of these two bookstores.