The Penang Bookshelf
November 2011 Newsletter

From The Penang Bookshelf



The Penang Bookshelf's Almost Respectable 


While it's been a bit of a snoozy month for internet sales, it's been eventful otherwise.IOBALogo I mentioned in my last newsletter that I'd tentatively applied  for membership of The Independent Online Booksellers Association. I was a bit knocked out when they eventually came back to me and said, "Welcome aboard!" Although they're the leading international organisation for online book peddlers, they're fairly exclusive, only 315 members, because of their stringent rules on book descriptions and returns.

I only stumbled onto the internet as an afterthought, i.e. because I had too many books to heave along to my market stall, which was my only sales outlet until a year ago. So I try, as much as I can, to replicate online the real life book buying experience. That means good descriptions and a generous returns policy, amonsgt other things. So this is a comfortable place for me to be - amongst like minded book selling folk.

What's in it for You?

Of course I could chatter on about maintained and improved quality bookselling but probably the link to other quality booksellers and quality books is more important. I was thrilled to discover that The Penang Bookshelf is not the lone Asian representative amongst the membership. Orchid Books/Press of Bangkok joined at the same time! Interestingly they started out as a publishing house, now well established, and then branched out into bookselling, both in a shop and online. We've already been in touch

I would like to pass on the benefits of IOBA membership to you by sending out a weekly digest of books currently on offer by other members. Don't worry, you wont have to fight your way through heaps more of my verbiage. Instead the email will list what's come in that week, sorted by category, in a more helpful and down to earth way than you're used to from me.

Decent booksellers give each other discounts on purchases, My fee will be limited to 50% of such discounts. For example this week one UK IOBA member is offering 50% off any book listed at �300 and below as well as other big discounts if books are purchased before 25th December. Most of the books will not be of Malaysian/Asian interest, however if I do spot any I will alert those of you who I think might be interested.

I do  not propose to jam all your inboxes with these weekly digests so, if any of you are interested in taking advantage of offers on other members' stock, please let me know.

Special Thanks

One of the principal reasons for joining IOBA was to get a bit of support in what can be quite a lonely occupation. Being a sort of newcomer  to Malaysia and a definite newcomer to the book trade, has earned me a few strange looks as The Penang Bookshelf has been making its mark. However there are a few people who have been prepared to go the extra mile.

In Singapore there's Lelsie Lim of the book distributors, Pansing, who distribute Marshall Cavendish's books as well as my regular seller, The Gift of Rain, Tan Twan Eng's acclaimed novel about war time Penang. We not only enjoy a jokey relationship, but he's incredibly supportive in suggesting new selling opportunities that don't always involve just promoting the books his company distributes.

In Penang similar thanks must got to the equally helpful and untiring, Michelle Grimsley of Spyral Synergy. She's not exclusively involved in the book business, although she has organised book events and we may work together in the future. Her speciality is organising events that are a little more stimulating than going to the local shopping mall or steaming up in a Penang traffic jam. Like Leslie, she's been helpful with suggestions of how to expand and improve The Penang Bookshelf. She's always fizzing with ideas as you'll see from her current and past newsletters.

And last, but not least there's Lyndy Ong, the organiser of  The Little Penang Street Market .
She started by supporting my application to become a regular seller at the market, giving me my first break in the business and then invited me to share her shop. I'm sure she'd like me to mention that December's market is not on its usual last Sunday of the month in December, but on Sunday 18th December. The Penang Bookshelf will be there!

More Malay Books & An Update

It's been quite an effort between me and the US bookseller and me to co-ordinate the large purchase of books mainly in the Malay Jawi and Rumi scripts. As I've explained to some of you, I haven't been able to fulfill your orders yet because although I've already received six boxes full, some books were obviously missing. At first we thought there was a box missing in the post, but in the last few days, I've discovered they were never sent. It's a relief to know that they're not lost. In the course of our negotiations, yet more similar books have been found. So soon this bunch - pictures here - will be on their way too.

I hope to be able to devote December and January to sorting all these out as well as another lot of English language books which will comprise most of the luggage that my blindly obedient younger daughter will be brining out with her when she visits Penang in mid-December. So, you who've already reserved books, please be patient. Your books haven't been sold off elsewhere.

India Bound

After a bit of a hectic couple of months, my wife and I are off to India on 1st December and will be back a week later. So I won't be able to fulfill any orders during that period. I, and more particularly my wife, had hoped for a book free holiday. However I'm not sure I'll be able to resist the temptation in a country with one of the largest English readerships in the world. She's agreed we can book 30kg each for the return flight.

If there are any Indian published books you'd like me to look out for, do email me as I am likely to have internet access.

Thanks for The Feedback

A few of you were kind enough to tell me that the last newsletter was a bit lengthy. I haven't got out my ruler or pocket word counter, but hope this one is slightly more brief.

I was going to write a bit more, but you'll be glad to know it's completely slipped my mind.

Thanks for persevering too,


William Knox

The Penang Bookshelf


PS  The blurb at the bottom of this email is miles away and I don't know how to fix it. If you still have the interest or the stamina to read it click here  or just keep scrolling, scrolling, scrolling ad nauseam. 

It's Still Raining  

(Picture Books)




Despite my rant last month about Penang's perpetual rainy season and some far fetched correlation between that and the stream of Penang picture books coming my way, it's still raining and they're still coming. However there's a twist - it's retread, sorry, reprint season. ML217
Grudgringly I'll head the list with the third edition of The Penang Postcard Collection 1899-1930s which left me cursing that I hadn't got rid of all of my copies of the second edition earlier.  It's always been the blockbuster of the Penang picture books. It's justifiably a classic, but weighing in at close to 1.8kg, you can understand why e-books are becoming more popular. 

Close on its heels comes another, Heritage Houses of Penang, Heritage Houses of Penangthat shares a common author, Khoo Salma Nasution, probably Penang's best known heritage academic and activist, but
is from a different publisher.  The book's photographer, Halim Berbar, who's applied his prize winning techniques to more books than I've sold this month, also has considerably more life in him than all of the photographers of Postcards book.

The same publisher, Marshall Cavendish Editions,  have been excelling themselves in reprints this month and here comes another that I'd nominate for my Scrummy Books  list. As soon as you pick up Peter  Wee's A Pernakan Legacy, you'll know what I mean. It's manageable and chunky - ideal loo reading I would have thought, but I haven't given it a test run - and the pictures are just gorgeous whether they're evoking the life of the ordinary or moneyed Peranakan. It's light on text, but you won't mind since the pictures are enough and page turning exercises your thumb muscles rather than your biceps.

Yixing Teapots Still Brewing 

If there are any regular readers of this newsletter left, you must be immune by now to my excruciating effortsYixing Teapots to get more mileage out of this book, The Beauty of Yixing Teapots and The Finer Art of Tea Drinking. Well, I do still have another 20 or so copies to sell - and they're still selling. What's more this month, thanks to a US customer, I discovered that there are two more bilingual Chinese teapot books, one on Yixing and the other more general. Stifle your groans!  It seems that to qualify as a Yixing teapot expert you need to

ensure that you have a book title that's both pedestrian and chapter length. Hold your breath. This one's Chinese Yixing Teawares from the Collection of the Cheng Yang Foundation.  However it seems that if you write about other types of teapots, you're allowed more poetic licence. The other book's name is something like Purple Fragrant Teapot Treasures. I don't stock either, but can get hold of them. I am planning a special newsletter to those who have bought the book I stock, but if any more of you are interested, do let me know. 



Some Reprints Come More Cheaply


The Penang reprints mentioned above have come back at the same or a slightly higher price, but it doens't always have to be that way. As regular readers will know, one of my favourite publishers is The National University of Singapore Press. They not only publish their own fascinating titles - for me anyway - but also reprint equally fascinating tomes on Southeast Asia, usually from US university presses. I've been struggling to get rid of Jean DeBernardi's The Way That Lives in The Heart for more than a year now at a nasty price, which is almost what I paid for it in the first place. Yet again NUS Press has come to the rescue with their own reprint at about a quarter of the price. The author uncovers in a sympathetic way practices  which most Penang residents have brief brushes with and other just speculate about. The link to this reprint is here.


There's No Such Thing As Bad Publicity  



My fairly timid rubbishing of  Boris Hembry's Malayan Spymaster, in my last newsletter  

produced two surprise results. Firstly, one regular customer ordered a copy the next day and then another, who'd already bought the book knocked back with a spirited review which I've just published on the Penang Bookshelf Blog. The book's still selling nicely. 


Pointless Points????

Last month I introduced some sort of an attempt to reduce my income by giving it back to you, i.e. Loyalty Points. The nitty gritty detail of how they operate is spelt out at the very end of this newsletter.  


One of two of you wondered how on earth I'm going to administer such a devilishly complicated scheme. The answer - I'm as complex as the rest of you. Although I am hopelessly inefficient and muckily messy, one of my joys is making lists and recording things. Can't think why. As I said before, this points scheme is an experiment, like so much that happens at The Penang Bookshelf. Let's just see how it goes.


No one's yet won the RM100 prize I announced in the last newsletter for the most adventurous purchase of the month, so the prize is still open. So if you feel like buying something wildly different from what you've bought from the Penang Bookshelf before, have a go!


However the writer of the review of The Malayan Spymaster has unwittingly won herself the cost of the book, i.e. RM40 as a credit against future purchases from The Penang Bookshelf!


Why don't you submit a review of something you've bought from The Penang Bookshelf? If your review is published, you'll earn at least 10% of the cost of the book as a credit. You could earn more, depending on how much I have to throw around.   


Oh I've just thought of another possible prize this month. If you can think of something less tedious than Loyalty Points, Bonus Points, Gimmicks for the Gullible or Credit Cons to call this scheme, do let me know. There's a good chance that your imagination is a bit more sparky than mine at the moment, so why not stun yourself and win - yes, yet another - prize! 




About The Penang Bookshelf
The Penang Bookshelf specialises in providing book lovers with a broad range of new and second-hand books, both fiction and non-fiction, primarily about Malaysia, but also about other parts of Asia as well.

Independent Online Booksellers Association, Professional Member.

Websites:  www.penangbookshelf.com

Also at: Biblio.com ,Ebay and at IOBAbooks

For other general books, bargains & collectables, please visit Amok Amongst Books


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Email: penangbookshelf@gmail.com

Telephone: +60-12-972-6485

Address: 36, Cheeseman Road, 11600 Penang, Malaysia

Registered Business No: PG0282219-D

The Penang Bookshelf's Loyalty Points

Whenever you make a purchase from The Penang Bookshelf, while being a subscriber to this news letter, 10% of the purchase price of the book excluding postage will be credited to you to use to discount the price of your next purchase.You will not earn points if the purchase price was discounted or the book was on special order where a service fee is charged. Points will also be awarded as special prizes announced in the newsletter. Points will expire six months after they have been earned.  Points will be recorded in Malaysian Ringgit and you may check your available points balance by contacting The Penang Bookshelf at any time.