In the past, Thais haven’t been big readers. Sure, they’d pick up a newspaper or magazine and, of course, millions of Thais read comic books, but books? No, not so much. In recent years though, as book shops sprout up all over Bangkok, you see more and more Thais around Bangkok with a book in their hand or on their lap – reading. That’s why today’s news UNESCO has named Bangkok the 2013 World Book Capital is wonderful.
Every year, UNESCO chooses a capital city and names it the World Book Capital. While the title doesn’t come with any financial reward (kind of amazing with the budget UNESCO has, you’d think some kind of monetary award would come with it?), it is an honor for Bangkok. The designation as World Book Capital is in recognition of Bangkok committing itself to promoting books and reading, and UNESCO is rewarding its effort.
Besides, while reading a book hasn’t been such a huge pastime for the majority of Thais, there are some excellent Thai book shops, and more and more Thais are browsing and buying books there. Plus, access to even English, Japanese and Chinese language books is phenomenal in Bangkok nowadays.
The city has many large English-language bookshops, various Japanese and Chinese book stores, used book stores, cafes with book shops attached, street stalls selling books–there are even a large number of book stalls at Chatuchak Weekend Market.
There are also two book fairs at Bangkok’s Queen Sirikit Convention Center every year, with around 400 book publishers participating, and more than 50 international publishers fly in for it, as the attendance rate is phenomenal.
In fact, a decade ago, when I first moved to Bangkok, it took a bit of effort to find a decent bookshop. Now, they’re just about everywhere.
That’s why, even though the UNESCO World Book Capital 2013 may be a bit surprising, it’s definitely more than just a little welcome. Hopefully this designation will encourage Thais to read even more, and there’s nothing wrong with that.