by Nguyen Ngoc
HA NOI (VNS) — Over the past several years, the activity of exchanging used books – once the domain of the young - has become increasingly popular in communities as a means for readers to meet, discuss and swap their favourite reads.
Dong Tay Book Exchange Club in the capital city of Ha Noi is one of a growing number of organisations that allow readers to swap their old books for the ones they need.
Founded last May by the Dong Tay Culture Language Centre, the club now has nearly 200 members including students and graduates.
Old books that members do not want to read again are brought to the Dong Tay Bookstore at 62 Nguyen Chi Thanh Street, Dong Da District where they are revalued. For each distributed book, the owner will receive a token allowing them to receive a book from another reader.
"People of all ages and backgrounds are encouraged to take part in the club", says Nguyen Viet Hai, a third-year student from the Diplomatic Academy of Viet Nam and the head of the initiative.
The club is open from 2-9pm every Sunday, when books of many types - excluding newspapers, textbooks and outdated and unedited books - are exchanged among members.
The books may be new or old but they should be in good condition, clean and unmarked.
The swapping helps bibliophiles to obtain new reading material without having to go mad with money, explains 26-year-old member Nguyen Huong Giang.
Despite her busy working schedule at the city's Muong Thanh Hotel, Giang still finds the time to read and join the club every week.
"For me, book exchange is a helpful activity. I have found many books from the club including some valuable and rare ones that cannot be found elsewhere," she says happily.
The club has also readers to gain a new circle of friends. They can build lasting relationships through book swapping, often sparked by a discussion about a good paperback or a bad film adaptation.
"At first we only talk about book related matters such as author and content, but after becoming closer the conversations become more ebullient and we talk about anything and everything," comments Hoang Minh Quan, 23. "We even compare the club to a round-table conference!"
The club's activities are supported by the Dong Tay Book Store, which has donated hundreds of books according to manager Doan Tu Hoan.
"The idea of book swapping isn't new. But we are still determined to organise the activity because we understand that not all bibliophiles have the money and opportunity to read the books they love," he smiles.
During a period when the culture of reading is not given the attention and encouragement it deserves, book exchanges have become a meaningful way to store, preserve and popularise useful books among society.
Perhaps the birth of more book clubs like Dong Tay can open a new chapter for the country's avid readers. — VNS