Business

Southeast Asia’s First ‘Book Plaza’ to Open in Rangoon Early Next Year

By Kyaw Hsu Mon 3 October 2016

RANGOON — A complex of businesses and event spaces aimed at book lovers, which developer U San Mon Aung has called Southeast Asia’s first “book plaza,” is set to open in downtown Rangoon’s Chinatown in early 2017.

The Yangon Book Plaza will occupy a 100×200-foot space on the fifth floor of Than Market in Lanmadaw Township, with an initial investment of around US$100,000.

“I’ve tried for three years to open this book plaza. As far as I know, there are no other book plazas in Southeast Asia,” said publisher and author U San Mon Aung.

U San Mon Aung started the WE publishing house in Burma in 2003—producing translations of internationally renowned works, as well as previously banned works of dissident Burmese literature—and has written under the pen name Myay Hmon Lwin.

Memorials for famous Burmese authors are planned for the plaza, alongside local bookshops and outlets of international book chains, spaces for book launches, used bookstalls, offices and coffee shops.

He said that suitably large spaces in downtown Rangoon are hard to find: “Lanmadaw Township is very crowded, with many vendors and a lack of car parking spaces, but this space and location is important for my plan.”

He said investors would be invited to secure units in the plaza in November, with spaces for 30 retail outlets, local and international.

“I’m renting this space over a long term contract […] the decoration will start this month. Everything will be eco-friendly,” he said.

He said he was in dialogue with “famous” international book chains, which may wish to open outlets, although he wouldn’t disclose their names.

U San Mon Aung claimed that rental fees for businesses would be below market prices, despite its location in downtown Rangoon, which has seen soaring real estate prices since the launch of economic reforms in 2011.

Rangoon’s old bookshops have been dwindling in recent years, and depend on a small cadre of enthusiasts for rare or previously censored books. Roadside book vendors have also been evicted from their old spaces on the back of development projects in downtown Rangoon. Industry insiders claim that the overall book market is shrinking, thanks in part to the rise of Internet access via smartphones.

“My idea is to refresh the book market, for sellers who are now facing challenges,” U San Mon Aung said. He hoped that the people of Rangoon could rediscover a love for books.

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