Before starting Paperbacks in Saigon, I’ve always enjoyed the ‘book shop experience’. To me, visiting a well-managed book shop is therapeutic, where those minutes (or sometimes hours) one spends flipping through books serves as temporary gateways to other realities. For me, visiting the book shop became a routine done during times when I needed to think, was feeling blue, or simply as a reward after a long week of work. Book shops are important in that, aside from their function as a place to buy books, they serve as safe havens within a community. One can always retreat from the hustle and bustle of life inside a book shop, and allow their intuition to guide them towards their next read. In that way, book shops are pure.
With Paperbacks, being online based is a means to an end – with the end being the hopeful opening of a physical shop in the future. With this in mind, we participated in OHQUAO’s Mini Book Fair which was held on April 17-18. It was a great and much needed experience, as I got to glimpse the realisation of my dream and goal for Paperbacks, however briefly. At the fair, although we only had a small space along a side-wall to display our books, I saw the aforementioned ‘book shop experience’ play-out. For those two days, book lovers conjugated within the little room in peace and instinctive silence, browsing books while drifting in their own thoughts. Many customers patiently sifted through each section, exploring all the little nooks where a single book may speak to them, completely involved and entranced by the activity at hand. Even though our selection was far from being comparable to that of a book shop, the same order was present and I am sure, felt by all.
The Mini Book Fair also served as a way in which our curation of books can be assessed by those whose opinions matter most — book lovers of different taste, backgrounds and personalities. I was glad to see and meet many who shared similar interests to myself. This common curiosity at least bonds us and can act as anchor points for the exchange of new ideas and books in the future. After the fair, we announced on Instagram that we would be stocking more LGBTQ+ books, and some of our new friends immediately sent their recommendations. Paperbacks will only grow from the Book Fair, all thanks to the direct and indirect input of everyone who visited.
With this, I would like to send a special thank you to OHQUAO. Through this event I’ve made many new friends and can now see a new chapter for Paperbacks. None of these new insights and friendships would have been possible without OHQUAO’s wonderful team and their initiative. Thank you for creating the opportunity for me to briefly realise my dream for Paperbacks. To all the book lovers who have supported us in any way, thank you for your kindness and we will continue to do our best to uphold and create our little haven to serve you all – on happy days, blue days and all days.