Cities are 24 hour machines. At any given moment there are people working, sleeping, travelling, eating, dancing, reading and everything in-between. When we think of the night-time economy, we often think of pubs, bars and clubs – elements of the party culture. Where do the non-party people go if they would like to go out late at night? Taipei seems to have have an answer; a 24 hour bookshop that is most popular between the hours of 10pm and 2am.
As a visitor to Taipei, it is slightly confusing to see a bookshop on the top of ‘to-do’ lists, but Eslite is a common recommendation for things to do after dark. The largest and most popular store of the 42 locations across the city is situated in Xin Yi, near the City Hall station. As independent bookstores around the world lose out to online retailers such as Amazon, this book-worm wonderland is somehow thriving.
Contrary to the traditional business model, the key to their success seems to lie in their policy allowing people to read as much as they like without buying a thing. People sit in the halls with books for hours; some are browsing, and others have settled in – committed to reading their chosen story in it’s entirety. Just don’t spoil it by spilling your food or drink; the other key element of the store’s recipe for success. Eslite provides so much more than just books.
The huge 6 story building really feels like more of a mini-mall, with the ability to buy design trinkets, art supplies, fashion, food, drinks and more. There are music and dance performances, film screenings, art exhibits and cooking shows – all promoting books. In-fact only 60% of sales are from actual books. The venue has established itself as a destination that provides much more than just a retail experience; it has become a bustling central city hub.
Tourists and locals alike flock to spend their spare time here. Some have morning flights to catch and/or time to kill; others are simply insomniacs with bibliophilic tendencies. In a city as busy as Taipei, it is no surprise that the night-time economy is thriving. What’s curious is the popularity of an alternative form of night life. The city is catering for all interests, and this variety is evidently in demand.
With the rise of positions such as the night-mayor in Amsterdam (and other places quickly following suit), it seems cities are recognising the importance of curating their night-time economy in a more purposeful manner. Eslite demonstrates that it is important that the plan encourages an inclusive environment. Cities must not only cater to the party-people, but also those who would much rather be social with the company of a good book than a stiff drink.