Sunday, March 20, 2005


books have a china

In the news this week a report that the world's largest bookshop has opened in Beijing. It is quite a change from 23 years ago, when I studied in Beijing. Then, one could not even browse in a bookshop. In what must have been the most unfriendly "information architecture" ever devised, one had to jossle with people to get near enough a counter so one could see the spines of books to read what titles were even available. If something looked interesting, you had to beg a grumpy sales clerk to take the title off the shelf, so you could briefly scan it at the counter. If you wanted it, you handed the book back to the clerk, who gave you a slip of paper with the book's title and price, which you took to a cashier, who took your money, stamped the slip, and allowed you to return to the clerk to collect the book. I think the Chinese are enjoying the Borders model more.

Another Chinese book innovation I just encountered comes with a recently purchased dictionary. It has a special "anti-forgery" watermarked title page (in washed out ink), so one knows it is genuine and not a pirate copy. No hologram, though.

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