Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Stocking in Malaysian Bookstores

Of this I am certain. At least 95% of the people working in bookshops in Malaysia don't really read. And when I say read I mean current affairs, serious or classic fiction and other non-fiction books like psychology, history, physical science, philosophy, etc. instead of magazines with more pictures than words (except adult men's magazines - those need as few words as possible and most tasteful close ups) and those books devoid of anybody's time. The truth is I am usually amazed that most of the books in our local bookstores are shelved right. But you can tell whether the staff are reading or not if you look closely at the shelves.
A person who reads tend to be particular about where books are placed. So I'm fessing up - I hate to see books put in their wrong place. It annoys the piss out of me. So one shite day when I saw the above book in that place, I snapped. Actually, it was more like a crackle but I thought snapped sounded a bit more dramatic but seemed to hint at violent intent of which I had absolutely none. But anyway, maybe I shouldn't have gone over to the bookstore after a long day. It was one of those weeks you just want to survive through. I thought I was coming in here for a little M&A (Manga and Alternative).
And just as I was heading out of The Borders branch at The Curve, Mutiara Damansara, almost breaking into full stride with head leading the body, afraid that if I lingered any longer the pile of books would be like a magnet to those other books, sucking them into my basket, I made a break for the cashier. So beginning from the Philosophy section at the North East corner of the store, I rounded the bend and there about to launch into a full stride when out of the corner of my eye, I saw the above. I mean like, if there was a book police right there I'd write the report. Jail those illiterate bastards.
Now I've read the book. So I know that firstly, it is not 'self-help' in a sense that it is to help you help yourself. No, it is more self-help for the author, now he's got a regular source of income and some claim to fame as a 'writer' (we have a low threshold of what constitutes writers in this country). So it should not be there. And check it out, where is the Self-Help section housed under? The goddamned Psychology column. And look how prominent it is almost three quarters of a bookshelf! Talk about far off, these guys were up Uranus. And if you think there was nothing to help these Uranians, the subtitle of the book was "In Good Faith: Articles, Essays and Interviews". I was thinking, how on earth did it occur to these aliens that it should be slotted there.

I was so annoyed that I went straight to the customer service counter and told them of the offence. I tell ya Jed if I had 'em cuffs, I would have read them their raghts (to be read with a thick Southern I screwed my cousin accent). The guy at the counter got all worried about what I was worked up about. Even though he appeared to have heard everything I said about the book and how it was inappropriately placed, he understood nothing. I could have been speaking to him in Uranian and he still would not know any better. So I pointed at him with my index finger and then pulled it in as I pointed my thumb at me and motioned him to follow me. He managed to grab a more senior assistant on the way there (he was coming towards us) and together the three of us made our way down to the crime scene. I pointed at the book, opened it, and read the back to them to prove to them that the book was not stocked in the right place. They asked me where they should stock it. So I saw that just opposite that column is the 'Malaysiana' corner and pointed there. They nodded pensively and then very politely asked me to wait at the customer service so they could get their manager to come see me.
The poor chap came running down and almost out of breath when he got to me and hurriedly ask if I was the author of the book. Hilarious. I told him I wasn't and then he seemed befuddled. He then asked me what was wrong with the place where it was put. At least he understood the human English language. He was very nice about it and said he will move it accordingly and thanked me for my alertness. It's a damn shame these poor chaps don't take an interest. I think one turn around the bookstore just before opening in the morning will cut down the more glaring errors. I wish there was one bookstore in Malaysia that was immaculate but I cannot. I have time and time again found errors in all the major bookstores in the Klang Valley.
I don't think we are anywhere like those Australian, English or American bookstores where the staff read a fair bit themselves and give personal recommendations that they pin up next to the book and explain why they enjoyed it, especially for less heavily marketed books, which I absolutely love. These bookstores are immaculate and you tend to find some very interesting and compulsive books that you may not have read about or that has appeared in any chart list. In those countries, I love those huge book marts and especially those cozily run independent stores that have a charm all of their own and their book selection to be very thoughtful and cultured. And you will never find Zaid Ibrahim's book shelved in the psychology section.
Unless, those Uranians know something that I don't.
Goddamned aliens.

1 comment:

art harun said...

But truthfully, I read "In Good Faith" and I actually though Zaid was a phsycologist! :)