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Thursday, February 17, 2011

introducing BookXcess

If you’re from around KL or PJ and if you like reading but you’ve never heard of BookXcess, you really need to check it out now. With a good load of free time lately, and a revived interest for reading as of late, I decided to check out a place I’d discovered some time back where I knew I could get more for less.

This place isn’t around the more upscale areas like Bangsar or any of the big established malls like Pavilion and Mid Valley. It is however, in a place where prices are generally easier on the wallet: Amcorp Mall.

Situated on the top floor, BookXcess is easily distinguishable from the other stores around with its bright signboard with the black and orange wordings. From the outside, you can tell the store’s pretty big and its size is comparable with any of the medium sized branches of popular book franchises around such as MPH, Borders and Popular.  

BookXcess @ Level 3, Amcorp Mall

From its website in the ‘About Us’ section, you’ll find that BookXcess started up only just a few years ago, back in 2006. It didn’t have such a big store back then. It actually took a small corner lot that’s probably less than the size of an average Starbucks coffee house. It’s become very popular since then, and in 2007, they moved to a much bigger store as you can see in the photo above.

As I mentioned earlier, the reason I really like BookXcess is because you will always get books for a discounted price. They bring in new books in great condition with prices slashed to about half of ordinary retail prices you’ll find at other bookstore franchises. Sometimes, the cut is a lot more than 50% even. My guess is that whoever owns BookXcess has ties to suppliers that have excess (Xcess is part of the name after all) stocks of certain titles and is able to procure them at a very good rate.

BookXcess is very upfront about its competitive prices, and that’s been pushed even further with the ‘Bargain Sales’ corner they’ve set up right at the entrance to the store! You could look at it as a mini warehouse sale of a warehouse sale because books at that section are sold at a range of prices between RM 1.00 to RM 8.00 only, how about that for a bargain! Just to show you how good a deal it is, I got my first HALO paperback novel, The Cole Protocol from the bargain sales section for only RM 3.00 when its recommended retail price is about RM 35.90. 

Bargain Sales section @ BookXcess

Everyone will probably wonder how they can sell books that cheap. Still, whichever way they are able to sell at discounted prices won’t really matter, as long as consumers like you and I can reap the benefit of buying books at a much more reasonable price. There are always concerns with places like these nonetheless, that there may be a lack of variety. Some may feel it could be like certain warehouse sales where you can’t really find anything that you really want, like when you’re at a fashion warehouse sale and you just can’t find that right fit.

Thankfully, that’s not the case with BookXcess. While they don’t have every single title you can find at Borders and MPH, this discount store doesn’t struggle to provide a vast variety of books of different genres. They have plenty of books ranging from fiction to non-fiction, sports to entertainment, and from self-help to business improvement titles. If you don’t believe me, you should try asking the 9,779 people that currently like them on Facebook.

Oh, by the way, this store doesn’t just sell paperback and hard cover books, there’s a whole section just for magazines too, and there are good offers for them too of course: 

Their magazines in stock also come from a range of genres, women’s health, sports, business, politics, music, entertainment, photography and the like.

The only thing that is probably lacking at BookXcess in terms of variety are comics or graphic novels as some people put it. They do have some, but nothing from the publishers like Marvel, DC and Dark Horse. Personally, I think they can’t sell those because comics from those publishers do not depreciate in value over time, but appreciate rather, since they’re treated as collectibles by many. Its not a great loss by any means. After all, comics are for light reading, they won’t improve your general knowledge or grammar anytime soon.

Browsing through BookXcess is generally easy as all their shelves are labelled with the according genres and most of their books aren’t wrapped up so you can have a good browse through before deciding if you want to buy. In fact, the only items I remember wrapped in plastic were the magazines, and a couple of large sized hard cover books. 

Two books I bought from BookXcess last week, the Bryson’s Dictionary is hard covered.

That’s not all, the store has a generally spacious layout in between shelves so don’t worry about blocking somebody’s way while you’re browsing through a book at an isle. Somehow, the atmosphere within the store is rather friendly, which is different from the quiet tension in Borders and MPH that make them seem like libraries or the busy feel of Popular that makes it more of a marketplace than a bookstore at times. Incidentally, Popular bookstore is also located in Amcorp Mall, but you’d know by now that more people are talking about BookXcess than Popular over there.

On top of a peaceful and friendly browsing experience, there’s also something new to experience each time you pay for a book over the counter. Every receipt you get comes printed with a short story written by someone who’s submitted a story to BookXcess through this website: www.receiptstories.my

If you submit a story that the people from BookXcess fancy, it just may come out printed on people’s receipts, maybe yours even! It’ll also be viewable on the website. 

There’s a limit of a 100 words for each story but no such restrictions for the number of entries you can submit. You just need to sign up at the website before putting up your short stories.

To round up, BookXcess is a must visit if you haven’t already, and if you have, I don’t think there’s a reason for you not to go back a second time right? It’s a favourite place of mine, one where I can spend plenty of time searching for a good read that’s guaranteed to come at a good price. The main course comes with an excellent side dish of a friendly shopping experience with a neat memento to take home each time you grab a book from the place. You can’t really ask for much more can you?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

culture Incorporated

The lunar new year has now come, and as it is with the start of every lunar new year; there’s always a celebration. Most, if not every person with some oriental connection will be celebrating the occasion. In Malaysia, its more popularly known as the Chinese New Year, with plenty of Chinese fleeing their working homes to spend time with their families at their hometowns. It happens without fail every year, a cultural phenomenon that has remained intact for a long time.

Talking about culture, its interesting what defines it. I think many people such as myself consider culture to be old school traditions that have formed the way in which societies behave. Others may think culture is simply something that makes a certain community unique from others. I suppose there’s truth in that statement too because most of the time, culture is most recognised through people’s physical appearance or food even, elements you can touch and have a prominent role in showing the uniqueness of a community.

In the modern age, there are groups of people who treat culture as a treasure of heritage. They make it out to be an important element of a lifestyle inherited from generations past that must be preserved and must never be forgotten. Government linked tourism ministries and agencies often have some role in this, because they need to ‘tout’ their nation’s cultural uniqueness to tourists planning their next destination. Protection of national heritage is a big deal these days it seems, with the world modernising around us without a second thought. The ‘green’ movement has affected it somewhat with modernisation beginning to accommodate environmental issues, but not so much cultural ones. After all, people in Malaysia are beginning to be more interested in the Toyota Prius (which I’ve seen a few on the road lately), not colonial looking houses.

A few Sundays ago, I was browsing through a few titles over at Book Xcess in Amcorp Mall. I came across a book I’d seen every now and then, but never bothered to open for a look. The title? Starbucked. 

One of the reasons I didn’t take a second look at this book before was because I already had a book about Starbucks, written by Joseph Michelli. Since I had time, I took up Taylor Clark’s book to give me a little insight as to what he thought about Starbucks.

His thoughts were certainly quite different from Michelli’s. While Joseph Michelli’s book was about what good people could learn from Starbucks corporate culture, Taylor Clark took a look at their overwhelming dominance, citing that two branches could be much less than a block away. The main point of the portion I read seemed to focus on how the rise of this coffee shop chain had eaten its way into American culture somewhat, and that its influence is quite scary and intimidating.

Starbucks wouldn’t be the only one though. McDonalds would probably be the big brother of Starbucks in terms of dominating presence. Not just in America, in Malaysia you’d know that in certain places, you would definitely be able to find a McDonalds outlet in the next district. To sum it up, the argument here is that corporate chains like those Starbucks and McDonalds are so commercial and so successful up to the point that they have affected local culture.

For this reason, the successful corporate chains such as McDonalds, KFC, Starbucks, Wal-Mart and to a lesser extent OldTown White Coffee in Malaysia tend to be the target of consumers that throw accusations at them with reasons ranging from A to Z, blaming them for almost anything.

Quite frankly, you can’t blame McDonalds for serving cancer when eating a Ramly burger can’t be all that different, neither can you fault internet service providers for decreasing physical social interaction. Facebook isn’t to blame if you made an idiotic comment your manager saw and fired you for. It has never been and should never be the mandate of businesses to protect people that know how to protect themselves, unless you’re a private hospital. You’re responsible for your own life, not Facebook.

The point is, entities such as Facebook, McDonalds and Starbucks have never imposed themselves on anyone. The fact remains that people have flooded to them and made them successful and fuelled their growth. Inadvertently, the success of these entities will have its role in influencing current culture. Logging onto social networking websites and visiting stylish coffee houses are the in thing, becoming part of today’s modern lifestyle. Its an incorporated culture that’s here to stay and it isn’t leaving anytime soon.

Nonetheless, culture from the past  isn’t lost if people don’t throw it away. Protection of heritage has nothing to do with condemning the influential corporate conglomerates of today but choosing the practice and promotion of culture. Complaining to a referee about a foul doesn’t win you a game, because getting your game on and scoring goals do.

Whether maintaining culture is a good thing or not is always dependent on what it is. Surely, a culture of cannibalism has no place in the modern world, or one that values human life very much. However, a culture of respect towards parents and elders would definitely be welcome as something that should be practiced for generations to come. As such, the practice of culture and its future remains at the hands of the people on the ground, not a CEO.