In a world of bland city centres, a shop full of interesting and unusual magazines and music that’s staffed by experts is a joyful discovery. And what’s more, they make your neighbourhood special.
“I opened Zudrangma in 2007 and it moved to its current location in the heart of Bangkok’s Thonglor area in 2011. My customers come from around Bangkok but I also get tourists who are curious about Thai music. They sit on the big sofa and listen, or relax outside or in the café next door.
My shop has records I found in Bangkok’s China-town, at night markets and in private collections. I bought records from ex-DJs, collectors and an exporter of used jukeboxes. I specialise in Thai music from the 1950s to the early 1980s, funk-influenced molam (traditional storytelling), luk krung and luk thung (folk music), and I’ve started reissuing songs in compilations. If the music isn’t good I won’t sell it. I have a turntable so customers can listen before buying, which is unusual here.
Many customers ask for advice, so I pick out some records and after they figure out what they like I find more.”
Owner since: 2007
Staff: 2 (not including the owner)
Stock: 20,000 records (LPs, 7-inch and 10-inch vinyl, plus hundreds of CDs)
“My day starts at 05.00 with a latte macchiato at the local café. I then open my kiosk and pack up unsold magazines and dailies from the day before – on slow news days, the bundles add up to 100kg. At 05.30, delivery vans drop off the newspapers – the final editions of Italian dailies plus foreign titles like Le Monde and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung – and the latest weeklies and monthlies. When I first started in this job, I would cross the street to the HQ of daily paper Corriere della Sera to get the freshly printed editions.
The next hour is spent putting out stock and preparing stacks of magazines to send by courier to the major fashion houses. Later in the day I do special consignments with my scooter and place a bundle of glossies at my feet on the floorboard. Around 07.00, doormen come by to pick up media for tenants in their palazzos and the first customers appear. I carry a wide selection of design publications and ‘mooks’ so often an architect or stylist might stop by to browse. I know clients by name, some are editors-in-chief at magazines that I sell. Often we take calls from people in search of a special insert or who are travelling and need us to put things aside for them. We carry everything from the yachting press to Australian food magazines. Renato, my barber, has his shop on the square and he and other locals stop by to chat if the weather is good. We talk food, politics and football – AC Milan fans are always welcome to stop at my kiosk. My companion, Antonella, works with me and together we stay open seven days a week to serve the neighbourhood. The news never stops so why should we?”
Largo Claudio Traves, Milan
Founded: Newsstand in square since 1940s
Owner since: 1990
Stock: 1,500 magazines (including 700 foreign titles), 80 newspapers
Bestsellers: Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica, Il Sole 24 Ore, Elle Decor Italia, Vogue Italia
“The idea of community is multi-layered. It includes readers and writers worldwide, fellow independent booksellers, local customers and neighbouring shops. Last year I organ-ised a campaign against the proposed April tax hike on books. I printed and distributed 2,000 posters to booksellers and 20,000 postcards for customers to sign and send to the government. I’m not a hero. It’s just that I’m not unionised, which gives me a strong independent position.
When Louis Tschann opened in 1929, he was a concierge at the Ritz, with a sideline finding books for visiting Americans. Montparnasse was on the edge of the city, full of hard-up writers, painters and poets, so Tschann answered a need. He also sold books by friends, such as Céline, Beckett and Ionesco.
Regular customers come to us like they go to the butcher or baker: we provide a necessity of life. I’m serving the great-grandchildren of original customers. They leave the boulevard bustle at the door, like entering a church. We’re the antithesis of Amazon, which is just all about speed.
When we open at 10.00, we never know what will happen or who will come in. I love the conversations, the meshing of ideas. I don’t believe in fiction and non-fiction or any other genre distinctions, because there are broader problems. A single book can encompass diverse fields, such as art, politics, travel, poetry.
My local collaborations include music evenings with a wine merchant, and educational events with Columbia University’s Reid Hall. After-parties can go on until the small hours. For me, a bad day is when we’re closed.”
125 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 75006 Paris, + 33 1 43 35 42 05
Founded: 1929 by Louis Tschann
Owner since: 1999
Staff: 6 salespeople and an accountant
Stock: Literature, philosophy, young writers, classics, new and secondhand
Bestsellers: To me, a bestseller is a book I’ve read and am passionate about sharing. Recently it was The Complete Works of Isaak Babel, and Fritz Mauthner’s Critique of Language.
“I know how difficult it is to run a bookshop – the profit you make per book sale is so small. I started Book Truck because I wanted to deliver the right books to the right people. The truck is a means to achieving that end. I can tailor my stock to suit the customers depending on my destination.
I bought my truck last year in Kumamoto. It’s a 1986 6.2 litre diesel Chevy Van. It has two seats at the front and can hold around 1,000 books and magazines. I have dozens of handmade wooden boxes for transporting and displaying the books.
I park it at my family home in Yokohama. When I was at university I thought about starting a book café, somewhere students could read. I wanted to learn about running a bookshop, so after I graduated, I worked at Tsutaya in Roppongi, which was directed by [renowned book curator] Yoshitaka Haba. After two years, I realised I was never going to save any money working in books and decided to become an accountant but Haba-san encouraged me to stick with it and pointed me towards a job in the book section of Cïbone, a design store in Aoyama and then another as manager at a bookshop called Shibuya Publishing Book Sellers. I stayed there for four years.
I stock mainly vintage and secondhand, including books about art, fashion, culture, novels, manga, western magazines and Japanese magazines, such as Relax. I can take the truck anywhere. I’ve done an event at the big Muji shop in Yurakucho and people are now asking me to bring my truck to places like Farmers’ Markets. I want to be selective about where I go. The satisfaction is in matching the books to the customers. If someone tells me they like clothes by Comme des Garçons, then I want to find the book equivalent for them, something that shares the same essence but in a different form. It can be difficult for people to choose a book that suits them from the millions that are out there.
My next plan is to take the truck to universities. I want students to experience the joy of discovering new things in books and magazines.”
Stock: Art books in English and Japanese, novels, magazines – books to suit the destination
Recommendations: Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman!, Richard Phillips Feynman; Yoru no Kumozaru, by Haruki Murakami (author) and Mizumaru Anzai (illustrator)