Indy Thai Literature: Struggling to find its voice

Since Bangkok was awarded World Book Capital this year, small bookstores and publishers have been collaborating to make Thailand more reader-friendly – namely, in the realm of independent, homegrown literature. One event aimed at refining the kingdom’s literary tastes took place last week when a number of independent bookstores gathered with the aim of attracting more Thai readers. Despite their efforts, and others like them, many independent bookshop owners still struggle to compete against big publishing companies for shelf space and profit.

“A lot of the big publishing houses support only the bestsellers. We don’t have much say of where we want to put our books,” Aticha Gabulon, executive editor of Gamme Magie Publishing, told The Diplomat. Most of Thailand’s 250 independent bookstores stock Thai classics, literature, political tomes, and translated works that aren’t deemed to make as much profit as romance novels. Some recently translated works include books by Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami and Czech writer Milan Kundera, as well as Aimee Bender’s The Girl in the Flammable Skirt.

Prabda Yoon, a Thai writer who won the Southeast Asian Writers Award (S.E.A. Write Award) in 2002, runs Typhoon Books and Book Moby added that although books that cater to niche readers are available, they quickly run out. It sometimes takes another three months for small publishing companies to redistribute books to large bookstores, as their relatively few employees often have to dole the books by themselves.

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