Posted on 2013-Apr-24
Having observed the event closely, I finally finished the 2-day marathon touring all the different venues in Bangkok that share the same purpose; that is, ‘Read for Life’. The first day visit to the main venue at Siam Paragon had bookselling booths lined up on the skywalk where Bangkokians strolled to pass by from one huge shopping mall to another gigantic mall. Countless publishers occupied the space to sell their featured books just like they did back a month ago during the book fair. Unlike the densely populated atmosphere inside Queen Sirikit National Convention Center that hosted the 41st National Book Fair, passers-by could not be mistaken for avid readers as they glanced sideways at a few books and continued to walk on. Most of the booth’s salespersons would rather enjoy the heat of the laid-back afternoon. A few people stopped by and kindly picked up the book that had been carefully arranged on the table and the shelf. Tourists did not even care to shop for what’s available in front of their eyes.
Onto the next best thing featured the decorative craftsmanship at Siam Paragon, one of the best known shopping malls in Thailand, the entrance to Bangkok World Book Capital 2013 Exhibition signified the extravagant beauty when books were hung from the tree.
The dramatic blue lights intensified the austere weight of the tree that supported the flying books. This intricate design led people to stop and take snapshots of their best smiles with posters and signs before walking inside the exhibition hall.
In the main hall, a man and a woman sitting near the entrance door were busying themselves in biding torn or worn out books. The man, Khun Pattaraphon of Book Clinic, talked briefly about his busy schedule as he was weaving the cover of a book. There were plenty more books on his tiny desk awaiting his helping hand. Different kinds of paper and materials were used to repair the book as evidenced on his cramped workstation.
Long History of Thai Fiction
Walking clockwise, the first section featured several boards displaying the history of Thai novels ranging from historic bodies of literature to bestselling novelists and poets who have contributed to the growth of literary scene. At the Home of Honors, the multitudes of literary awards prevailed to certify all the best works of Thai novels.
100 Must-Read Thai Books revealed all the significant writers who have published in the last century.
One of the most famous authors, Prime Minister M.R. Kukrit Pramoj, who penned “Four Reigns” also received the fair share of coverage here. Apart from thought-provoking novels, a separate section dedicated to humorous novels might get you a laugh without even opening the book. The covers did showcase the lighter side of Thai people’s personality of being satirical. Ghost novels section never fell short of reader’s attention as Hem Vejakorn had written over 108 works of horror fiction. Taking the center stage filled with floral garden, the extensive display of HRH Princess Sirindhorn’s travel books defined how literature was well-received in the country.
Public Library for Learning Discovery
Up to this point, our dear readers might ask where eBooks might have been. Walking past the extravagant Bangkok Metropolitan Administration’s (BMA) City Hall, the virtual library, situated behind the Giant Swing, displayed useful information how cultural identity had been preserved until the present day. Vowing to be the hub of the ASEAN Economic Community, Bangkok needed to adapt to change of which led me to the public library section where a woman introduced me to a library’s system. Users can log in to the system and read local eBooks in PDF format or the newspaper from all around the world. The current prototype system that can offer such services is being implemented at Khlong Samwa Discovery Learning Library.
Future of Thai eBook
Towards the exit of the exhibition, I had an interesting discussion about the future of eBooks in Thailand with Mr. Kiatkajohn Worapradya, Content Solution Director of Book Dose. The first obvious reason why I stopped by his booth was the presence of eBooks on iPad Mini. Secondly, I was stunned by his professional service which allows users to color eBooks! As long as you log in to your account, your masterpiece will travel with you on the cloud server. He claimed that his company was the first to come up with such a creative service. You can also browse e-Magazines directly from the website in Free Magazine section. You can zoom in the page and scroll the mouse to navigate the next or previous page very smoothly. In light of Thai eBook industry, he said: “There is no standard at the moment. We have to set the standard ourselves with the latest technology.” Although EPUB3 seems to be the perfect solution anywhere else, in Thailand the PDF format is more popular among local designers who favor fixed-layout presentation. So far, Book Dose is made purely for the Apple Store but down the road he might consider setting up the Google Play Store account since the latter’s market share is rapidly rising in Asia.
eReaders Are Emerging
Outside the main hall, the crowd gathered around the stage where prominent Buddhist monk, Ajarn W. Vajiramedhi, gave a talk about how to live well.
On the left side of the stage stands the huge book wall where eReader (Kindle Paperwhite) and tablet (iPad) sit comfortably beneath.
Young students finger swiped across the touch-sensitive display randomly to test how the text looks on e-Ink screen.
This is the first time I saw how eReader can perfectly sit alongside with the ubiquitous tablet manufactured by Apple in Thailand. Although the tablet’s screen collected more fingerprint smudges, young students are enthusiastically testing out the eReader. The history of printing press was exclusively showcased here with Johannes Gutenberg name being inscribed on the wall. Near the exit, the presentation wall showing 730 years of Thai Alphabetical and Reading Evolution raises Thai readers’ awareness of reading and using books widely in order to encourage the children to read further. My day-one mission was complete.
Having a Book Buffet?
The mission on the second day started in the late afternoon at Bangkok Art and Culture Center (BACC). On the way to the center on the skywalk, a large crowd gathered at the Mini Library for Discovery. Things got crazy around Book Buffet booth where people picked their favorite books and took them to the registration area rather than the cashier. After signing your name and contact details, you are instructed to collect up to ten books and donate whatever amount of money you wish to spend on those books. I got two books in English and French out of thrilling excitement.
Read for Life Graffiti
The front court of Bangkok Art & Culture Centre (BACC) was reserved to exhibit art under the concept of ‘Read for Life’. These creative graffiti bled colorful expression and why we must develop our strong passion in reading. One of the art installations showed how reading was for everyone.
This one showed how reading can enlighten your mind like a giant shiny fluorescent head.
The Prologue to 35th Anniversary of the S.E.A. Write Awardees’
Inside the art center, the Exhibition of the 35th Anniversary of the S.E.A. Write Awardees’ works of art were put on display in their original language and English translation. Last year Thai awardee was, Vipas Srithong, whose lifelong adventure was being represented by short stories, poetry, and novel.
Literary Works of Art
Being stripped out of extravagance, the exhibition here was somewhat different. It did not need the electrifying display to convince people to read. In this much quieter building, although it occasionally fell to live up to the fanfare outside, tranquility set the path for your focused reading of past S.E.A. Write Awardees’ literary achievement and the history of international literary prizes. Of all distinguished guests and honorees, an avid reader must be hypnotized by such a long progress of reading and writing evolution. Most of all, it was equally important how authors were recognized for their works that changed the way we perceived the world and society around us. Such critically acclaimed works from Thailand filled the long wall of the two floors; examples of those works were captured without the flash to make sure that no reflection can distort the raw authenticity behind their fictional stories. Their books were also available for appreciation.
Award-winning Books to Film Adaptation and a Case Study
Aside from books, if films were your main interest, you can freely watch the movies adapted from awarded books on the 5th floor. One of the books chosen to be the topic of discussion on the stage on the ground floor is ‘A Child of the Northeast’ by Kampoon Boontawee. The analytical discussion was led by Comparative Literature Specialist, Associate Prof. Trisilpa Boonkajon from Chulalongkorn University, Film Adaptation Lecturer, Dr. Saharot Kittimahacharoen, and Associate Prof. Porntada (Na Lampoon) Suvattanavanich, Thai Language Specialist from Srinakharinwirot University. The novel itself won the first S.E.A. Writer award and was considered the first novel to present the conversation of the main characters in northeastern dialect rather than the official dialect of central region. The novel also inspired the film adaptation that had the author refine the dialogue and storytelling. One of the lessons I learnt from the discussion was how the northeastern people held their unity to stand together, overcome the nature, and survive with happiness. (Note: BB herself is from the Northeast).
Food for Thought Shall Be Preserved and Inherited
Regardless of how Read for Life is implemented, there are big challenges that await the government’s decision to improve the literary standard of Thai readers. The lack of exposure to reading national treasure might be one of the obstacles how general Thai readers turn away from reading. Despite the fact that most of the participants off the stage had not read the book and watched the film, they were eager enough to answer the questions to receive gifts. This particular rewarding system had them hooked for longer than 30 minutes. At the end of the discussion, two people volunteered to read the lines from the book in northeastern dialect to pay tribute to what the author’s intention to alleviate the region’s cultural misconception. Video link of live reading will be uploaded in our Facebook page’s album soon. Although it was disappointing that the colorful leaflet did not specify when S.E.A. Writer writers would attend the exhibition, the food for thought available throughout the center was a testament to how the reading culture was craftily shaped by thinkers and writers locally and internationally.
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