After the success of the Nguyen Van Binh Book Street in downtown District 1, we’re excited for the opening of a second that is said to come in 2018.
If you haven’t yet been to the original, you definitely need to check it out. Nguyen Van Binh is tucked just beside the Central Post Office and is easily identifiable by the small crowds of people and phone booths selling postcards and accessories. The small street is full of open plan bookstores carrying mostly Vietnamese texts. However, you will find some English titles scattered throughout the collections.
Why we love book street
Nguyen Van Binh boasts a staggering total of 19 bookstalls. The 6m wide sidewalks and cozy coffee shop between it all allow visitors to leisurely sip on their cup of coffee while their noses are stuck into the crisp pages of their fresh new books. Over weekends especially, book street is popular with both locals and expats alike. The neighboring Central Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral add to the street’s popularity. Many travelers will round up their visit to these attractions with a stop by book street.
Scattered in between the permanent bookstores, you’ll often find pop up stalls with second-hand books for sale. The titles, as expected are a little worn, but come at very low prices. As well as these pre-owned pop-ups, there are other novelty stores that make an appearance from time to time. The space provides little coves that extend off the sidewalk for seating and include picturesque backdrops for photo opportunities. At just 144m in length, the street is a highly concentrated collection of culture (and coffee!).
Coming soon: Nguyen Dong Chi
The new venue will be named after esteemed folk culture researcher Nguyen Dong Chi. The municipal People’s Committee has indicated that this will be opened in District 7’s Tan Phu Ward.
District 7 is located approximately 15 minutes from Saigon’s center, and is fast becoming the hub of Saigon’s south. District 7’s Phu My Hung is a stark contrast to the rest of the city, with its wide streets and limited congestion. The area is mainly home to wealthy Vietnamese and expats, including a large Korean diaspora. With a large number of families and international schools operating out of the area, we predict that this second book street will become an especially popular spot for families.
Investment in the street is estimated to hit almost VND 14 billion (US 614,731).
At this price tag, a total of 20 bookstalls are planned for the street, which of course would not be complete without the comforts of a coffee shop.
But wait – there’s more!
Ho Chi Minh City Book Street management recently conducted a study among 450 participants. The study revealed that over 58% of respondents go to book street for the purchase of printed publications. About 36% enjoy going for the simple pleasure of being able to read these books in stores, and around 50% of the total respondents highlighted sightseeing and ‘sipping drinks’ as an additional visiting purpose. The findings of the survey underscored the need to launch additional book streets in the city’s densely populated areas.
In addition to the Nguyen Van Binh and Nguyen Dong Chi, authorities have expressed intentions to open three more book streets. The third location is likely to be in Saigon’s District 5.
Vietnam needs more bookworms
The book street initiative comes as a result of concerns surrounding the Vietnamese reading rate. Today, the rate is about one book per person, per year.
Le Hoang, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Publishers Association, states that while there has been an increase in the books published each year, school reference books and textbooks account for as much as 80% of what is available on the market.
Hoang explains that the average Vietnamese spends just US $2 per year on books, compared to China’s $10. To contrast, in the developed world, this figure can be upwards of $200.
Representatives of the Vietnam Publishers Association’s Ho Chi Minh City office declared that ultimately, the city hopes to set up a book street in each of its districts. Hopefully, this will inspire a richer reading culture across the city and eventually a positive change in statistics.