Death of rental book stores as readers switch to smartphones

Rental book shops may be losing the battle for young customers to the pull of social media, online gaming and the vast expanse of the internet.

Stores that rent out comic books and other wares say they are seeing their customers distracted by a more high-tech pastime: surfing the web on smartphones.

Children used to rent cartoon and comic books at the weekends, and others would take out magazines to read, rental bookshop owner Daw Thein Aye told The Myanmar Times.

“I started this business six years ago. I continue to run it because I have books and nowhere to store them all, but I can no longer depend on it [for income],” she said.

“My core business now is photocopying books and selling phone cards and stationery products.”

She no longer adds to her library, only recycles her existing collection. While the days of books flying off the shelves are long gone, a few loyal customers remain, she said.

“A few people still come to my shop to read cartoons and novels, but not many rent them. Sometimes days can go by without any custom, though it does not matter too much to me as I have other businesses now.”

With little income, libraries are unable to supplement their collections, and old books become dog-eared and lose their appeal, she said.

Twelve-year old Ma Zin Mar Htwe relies on private libraries. “When school closes I read books because my parents have not bought me a phone. When I am bored, renting a book is the best thing to do.”

Yet some libraries, even those that rented books for free, have been forced to close after would-be renters stopped coming, including in Yankin township, said resident Daw Thit Thit.

In neighbouring Tarmwe, U Htay Aung formerly ran a rental shop. When business suffered, he started renting games, but demand for these too has fallen, he said.

“I rented books from my apartment, but people gradually stopped coming, so I rented games to boys instead. Now young people play games on their smartphones instead, so I have stopped renting those, too,” he said.

Ma Thinzar, a 28-year-old who lives in downtown Yangon, said she rented books as a child, but now reads e-books instead.

“E-books are cheap and easy to download. I no longer know where to find books for rent – it’s too much hassle,” she said.

Source: The Myanmar Times

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