So long, Swindon!

July 29, 2020 09:33
Photo: Facebook

I felt like losing an old friend when reading about the closure of Swindon Book this week.

This is not just because its Tsim Sha Tsui shop has been around for half a century, but also because I always feel being part of it.

In my childhood, I picked up quite a few daily calls from customers who looked for Swindon because my home phone number was similar to that of Swindon. Those were the days when we used the direct current telephone set that often called the wrong number.

But how I missed those days when people actually made calls to find books they want. Nowadays, people just google the book before buying from Amazon - if one still likes to read books.

Lately I found myself returning to the book shelf after watching enough Netflix during this very boring covid-19 period.

It is still sad that Swindon decided to end in this toughest moment in Hong Kong.

“Swindon would like to invite you to celebrate our moving to a new chapter. We are closing a door and opening a window, Swindon is moving online,” the bookstore said in its Facebook.

“We deeply appreciate all your support over the years and we are truly honoured to have spent time with you at retail.”

First founded in 1918 by Li Shun Cheung family, the bookstore operated by three family generations moved to 13-15 Lock Road after the Li family bought the premise along with friends in 1967.

In its hey days, Swindon was the go-to place for English textbook and magazine in Hong Kong from the 60s to the 90s. I knew friends who picked their first date in the bookstore.

In the 60s, Li also bought Kelly & Walsh in Central and later Hong Kong Book Centre. Both are still in operations.

But the book business struggled at the turn of the millennium because books became a least favoured entertainment and an expensive business due to ever-growing rent.

Earlier in May, it was revealed in a court writ that Swindon has been unable to pay a monthly rental of HK$236,000 as the bookstore was unable to pay the regular rental since July, 2016.

As a result, Swindon joined a group of bookstore chain such as Dymocks, Page One and just few months ago, Popular Bookstore, which decided to bow out of this international city.

I dropped by Swindon in January on a regular weekday but was unable to find the book I looked for. I felt even worse because I counted there were more staff than customers on that day.

While we missed the good old days, we could now find Swindon in cyberspace.

Or, perhaps we can plan a trip later to Swindon, where the name is originated from a large town between Bristol and Reading as many in Hong Kong are preparing for their new chapters in England – just as what some citizens did 30 years ago in the brain drain.

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EJ Insight writer