Monday, September 07, 2009

Textbook shopping - Hong Kong style

A fat, long line formed outside a popular book shop which sells new and used textbooks, on Nelson Street in Mongkok. Yesterday afternoon. It is quite a common scene in late summer, even after schools have started.

It is a result of many factors: frequent revisions of syllabi, frequent publications of new versions of the same textbook, the deliberate separation of one textbooks into multiple volumes, the same market, the small number of publishers, ... The end result is that it is rare that you can make one trip to one bookshop to buy all the books you need for the new school year. If you go too early, some of the books would not have been published yet. Going too late, you run the risk that the books might have already been sold out. And it is often difficult to know which bookshops stock the books you need, and have not yet sold out.

By yesterday, most classes had started for one week already, but it was obvious that many students (and their parents) still had not acquired all the books that they need. Such is the (unique?) predicament of the students in Hong Kong.

Later, I was in 田園書屋, a well known, long-time upstairs bookshop specializing in literature, history and philosophy (文史哲) - not textbooks. Everybody knows that. Yet I overheard many parents asking for textbooks. They must be really desperate.

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