WHILE some people may think reading has become an old-fashioned habit, friends and business partners Hoessin Arabi and Lian Shen definitely think otherwise.
The two IT consultants believe that Malaysians should be reading more.
A recent survey showed that most Malaysians read less than three hours a day and it’s not even a favourite pastime as many prefer watching movies and shopping.
On a mission to promote reading among Malaysians, Hoessin and Lianshen decided to set up Bookurve Trading, which operates Malaysian online bookstore Bookurve.com, last year.
The two have been friends for the last four years, working and developing IT applications for big companies. Then one fine day, they decided to call it quits and Bookurve seemed to be the ideal platform for a business venture.
“We just decided we wanted to do something different since we were bored with what we were doing. We explored e-books first, but changed our mind as we found it unfeasible here. So, we decided on a online shop for physical books as it was territory that held potential,” said 27-year-old Iranian Hoessin, who is currently pursuing his doctorate in IT in University Malaya.
Bookurve sells books from most genres that can be found in conventional bookshops.
“It’s really hard to find a good book in Malaysia and don’t even talk about prices because it is expensive. We want to create a new way of selling books and at the same time encourage Malaysians to read and improve their vocabulary. So Bookurve it was,” said Hoessin, who observed that Malaysians do not like reading over the 10 years that he has been here.
He is hopeful that Bookurve will change the reading habits because he says the online Malaysian bookstore is almost like a virtual library where people can find almost any book they care to look for, and all books will be delivered within two weeks or less.
Claiming to have the “largest book selection, lowest price and free delivery”, Bookurve seems to have hit the right note among academicians, university students and bookworms.
Since the business is in its infancy, the two friends have to work round the clock to make sure they deliver all the books they promised. Bookurve is a combination of two words, Book and Curve. The duo says Bookurve is different from other online bookstores like MPH Online or even international site Book Depository.
“We want Malaysian readers to find any book they want and buy it at the lowest price. We also want to introduce the latest book titles that are not available in major physical bookstores.
“Compared to Book Depository, we are able to deliver the books in a shorter period of time with a tracking code for the order,” said Lian.
Bookurve now has more than 20,000 book titles that can be shipped out within a day.
“As long as the book is an English title and is still in print, we will try our best to get the book out to our readers. Bookurve was mooted after we found that readers could actually have a wider selection of book titles; something that MPH and Kinokuniya are not able to do. We didn’t even realise this until we started Bookurve,” he said.
Since prices of books here are quite expensive, Hoessin and Lianshen are determined to give better benefits to avid readers.
In some ways, the duo were lucky when they launched Bookurve late last year; the feedback and response from customers was very encouraging.
“With no promotions and publicity, customers managed to find us via Google. We have also launched a new layout on the Bookurve website recently, with a message that goes: “Find any book you want in Bookurve”.
Initially, we provided free delivery within Malaysia with no minimum purchase. But, now, due to the increase of shipping costs, we only provide free delivery with a minimum order of RM25. For East Malaysia, there is a minor shipping fee. Bookurve has also signed a deal with DHL Delivery for this purpose.
”All our books are sourced from an overseas distributor as well as a local distributor. We found that there are many places in Malaysia that are lacking in physical bookstores and this makes it difficult for readers to find and buy books.
“So, we want to provide an opportunity to Malaysian readers to discover, find and buy books no matter where they are, as long as they have access to the Internet and can visit the Bookurve website,” said Hoessin.
Most of the books are stored in a warehouse in Damansara, Petaling Jaya and they are currently shipping more books because of the overwhelming demand.
Soon, they will be getting books from the UK and Canada.
“We promise to deliver our books in the most convenient way, with no hassle and at reasonable prices. I guess because of this, Bookurve is slowly gaining popularity among the younger generation and academicians.
“Perhaps this new trend will soon catch up and change the way Malaysians perceive reading since the books at Bookurve are below market price,” said Lian.
Hoessin feels it will take a while to cultivate and nurture the reading habit among Malaysians. “Hopefully, Bookurve will entice more people to read. We see there is a growing trend towards it,” said Hoessin who is currently still developing smartphone applications for government bodies and private companies.
Before setting up Bookurve, the two friends had conducted a random survey of the reading habits among the young.
The most popular reading materials are from the Internet, magazines, novels and textbooks, in that order.
“We discovered almost 70% of young Malaysians spend time reading from the Internet. They prefer to surf websites rather than read a book. And more often, students read for academic purposes and not for leisure as they prefer to hang out with friends and communicate through social media sites like Facebook and Instagram or Twitter,” said Hoessin.
He believes children should be taught from and early age to love reading and parents play an important part in this.
“It is important for parents to encourage their children to develop this reading habit. Reading could enhance our knowledge and keep abreast of current issues. But to cultivate this habit, parents should be the role models. Maybe they could encourage their kids to carry a book with them so that they can read during leisure,” said Lian.
For Hoessin, reading has always been a great way to pass time. He remembers how he was first hooked to reading.
“I used to see my parents reading books during their free time. From there, I started emulating them and became a keen reader. Reading is like providing the mind with a vitamin. Parents can influence their children to develop this good habit,” he said.
Lian feels we should start a reading campaign to encourage more people to read.
“Ask anyone who reads and they will tell you reading a novel is a way to de-stress and escape reality for a few hours. Reading also enriches vocabulary,” he said.
But inculcating a culture of reading is not as easy as it sounds.
“We hope to do our part by promoting reading habit among Malaysian’s readers by offering the largest book titles. With just a few clicks, you can have your book in no time, flown all the way here and you can purchase with few clicks at a lower price with free delivery.
“By improving Bookurve’s service, we Malaysians will have a better understanding of the concept of reading. They are many areas yet to be explored,” said Hoessin.
Bookurve has had its share of hiccups along the way, among them missing books.
“But this is not a problem now as we have a tracking number to locate where it went missing. Our aim is to keep the price of books as low as possible.
“You can save time and money. Instead of wasting time in traffic to go to bricks-and-mortar bookstores with limited of books, now book readers can easily purchase books on Bookurve and the book will be delivered to their doorstep,” said Lian.