Customers of all ages flock to the popular 24-hour bookstore, thanks to its vast array of books and welcoming atmosphere
It’s close to midnight on a Friday and Eslite Bookstore’s Dunhua South Road branch is bustling. While the end-of-week party is just getting started at Taipei’s bars and clubs, at Eslite a crowd of customers, young and old, is browsing everything from newly released novels and art house DVDs to glossy fashion magazines and design tomes. Beneath the hushed chatter of couples, singles and parents with kids in tow, a soothing piano concerto is faintly audible.
Eslite’s five-storey flagship store is open 24 hours a day. Ever since the store opened its doors in 1989, its sleek yet cozy design and relaxed, welcoming service philosophy has made it a popular hangout for hipsters, book lovers and arty night owls. Helping matters is the fact that Eslite has earned a reputation as a place where singles can meet like-minded members of the opposite sex without the eardrum-splitting dance music, tobacco smoke and boozy vibe typical of nightspots.
Beyond offering readers the chance to browse around 250,000 books spanning just about every genre and field of study, Eslite also operates cafés, fashion boutiques, a wine shop and other businesses. Although customers tend to treat the stores like private libraries, the chain, unlike others in the industry, turns a tidy profit and recently expanded to Hong Kong and China The books on offer tend to be in Chinese, but there’s also a selection of English-language titles.
There’s no pressure to make a purchase; customers simply pull a title from the shelf, seat themselves on the timber floor and read to their heart’s content. In a nook near the entrance to Eslite’s healthcare section, 24-year-old Doris Chu and her 26-year-old boyfriend Wayne Liao sit cross-legged next to a bookshelf, each with a book in hand: Ignite Your Psychic Intuition for Chu and How to Make Taiwan Great by politician Hong-Yuan Lee for Liao. “I used to work here part-time,” says Chu, who now works in international trade. “Sometimes we go to bars on Friday nights, but Eslite is like my spiritual home. I think most of the people living in Taipei feel the same way.”
Various locations, including No. 245, Section 1, Dunhua South Rd; +886 2 2775 5977; www.eslite.com
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This article originally appeared in the May 2015 issue of Smile magazine.