A bookstore with a difference

Update: September, 14/2020 - 10:00


Nguyễn Văn Cần in his small bookstore on Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh street. — Photo

HCM CITY — There’s a book store in downtown HCM City with a difference. Sure, it sells books like it is supposed to, but customers can be forgiven for thinking this is actually a library.

If you want a book, you can take one, bring it back after you’ve finished it, even just keep it without even handing over any cash.

The store is owned by Nguyễn Văn Cần, who lives in District 4. His business methods may not make him rich, but it’s a model he has stuck with for the past decade.

“Books at my store are usually cheaper than those at other stores,” said the 68-year-old.

“Buyers can return books. They can borrow books without making any deposit, I don’t ask their names and restrict time to return the book.

“Some people did not return valuable books they borrowed from me, but I don’t mind.

“Some books are taken away and others brought back. I just hope the knowledge in the books can be passed on to more and more people.”

Seeing young people spend hours reading books is a pleasant sight for Cần, he even offers them free refreshments and food.

And the favours are returned, often people donate books to his store, and even bring him food.

When his shelves are full, Cần sends books to children in remote mountainous areas, as when he was a child he couldn’t afford books despite loving to read.

As a teenager, he would sneak into bookshops and try and read out of sight. When he did manage to save some cash, he would spend the money on literature.

“It’s my hobby,” Cần said, adding that if he stopped buying books, he would feel very unpleasant and unhappy.

The bookstore looks so small, quiet and old among modern styled houses on busy crowded Nguyễn Hữu Cảnh Street in the city.

However, when coming in the store, many people are surprised over the number of books available. Books are everywhere, on books shelves, along stairs, corridors and even under the ceiling.

When he has free time, he usually goes to other bookstores in town to look for and buy the books that he does have.

Soul mates

Many people go to Cần’s bookstore to read and borrow books, but they stay for the friendship they have developed with the owner.

Cần said that when the store was first opened, its regular customers were mainly elderly but now, more and more young people visit his store.

“Meeting with young book lovers, I seem to see myself in the past,” Cần said.

“They visit my store not only for books but we become friends, sharing our love for books and helping each other to solve difficulties in life,” Cần said.

HCM City may be busy and crowded, but visitors to Cần’s store will find an oasis of tranquillity, and more importantly, a new friend. —VNS