Bookstore Etiquette and Book Abuse : Is it up to the Bookstores or the Customers?

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To me, a bookstore was a sanctuary. Considering the nearest library to my house was my high school library and the FIM cookbook library, I don’t have the convenience of having to borrow things easily like folks in US or folks in old town PJ. Bookstores can be magical haven but it can be a disappointment. But I do know the love of books is a shared sentiments to every kind of bookworm in existence and it warm my heart when I see folks in love with reading as I do.

Nowadays, I get books from book fairs, Bookxcess, occasional bookstore rendezvous, and ARCs from Netgalley. Most of my book reading are in electronic book form while the rest are in paperbacks and hardbacks. I don’t have any preferences but one thing I always do was to treat books respectfully as possible. Even more so if it wasn’t my own book.

Today, I went to KLCC with my sister and my baby niece and spent the better part of this afternoon in Kinokuniya. While taking note of the things I will be saving up to buy at the Food & Drink aisle, I saw a couple romancing one another giving kisses and those PDAs but what annoyed me the most was they simply unwrap the books instead of asking permission from the customer service (they rewrap the books later). I debated about sounding them on sight or keeping silence and I choose the later despite my conscience trying so hard to ‘educate’ them loudly. I still don’t know why I only watch them but I really really want to sound them on the spot about not reading the shelf about asking the customer service if they want to read the inside. Once a girl use her camera to take pictures of a book and make note from it and a staff sound her right in front of me. 

But this is nothing new really…

Two days ago, I was in Paradigm Mall and spotted a guy openly browsing a magazine and took pictures from it. In plural. And while I was browsing for YA books, I notice a lot of the books have its cover pages bent and the back cracked from teenagers and kids sitting in the aisle reading with their mothers telling them not to go anywhere as if the store is enough to babysit their kids for themselves.


Then I remember during Big Bad Wolf sale… there was a corner where there were books piled haphazardly on the floor. Some of the cover are ruined and some looked like someone step on them. And even the earlier years where a mass of people in the children section tearing the plastic off the books and it was really really loud and you could see the sea of people doing it. This also lead to some cases of stolen book items from the children section.

Bookxcess have put up a rule for the customer where they pointedly try to warn parents not to leave their children alone in the children section. I think they warn people from leaving their chewing gum inside the books. (Why?)

I always like bookstores that doesn’t have Kinokuniya’s OCD to cling wrap every books in their store which made it hard to browse their contents. But the alternative was having books being handled roughly by browsing customers until it don’t even look like a new book anymore and more like overpriced second hand books.


I do understand the advantage of being inside a bookstore and having books around you and surrounded by the smell of fresh new books. But was it a sustainable mentality for parents and customers to let this book culture going on? The book culture that says you as a customer have the free reign to ‘handle’ (abuse) books in stores? The same books you never had intention of buying?

Why must books have this treatment when the rest of the mall? Did you ever went into a supermarket and crack open the soda and take a sip and knock the rest on the floor?

Personally, if everyone kept doing this to every bookstore and see that it’s  ‘harmless’, there won’t be any bookstore left in Malaysia. What’s left will be a stigma or internet meme of about how Malaysians love to make their own version of Project X in bookstores.


This is a real problem here. There was a real need to create community libraries within accessible distance around the housing areas where its visitors are allowed to have a comfortable place to read, parents to have a place to let their children read and people to get new and recent books to read.

There’s no need to create the most high tech and expensive library in the state with 3D cinema where it only benefit only that part of the community and not the rest of the state.

It’s sad that people are willing to go length with their politics about subsidizing more fossil oil instead of alternative fuel or knocking off PTPTN instead of supporting the nation’s continuous education development and feed the public hunger with knowledge and reading for pleasure. The occasional vanilla advertisement about “how we need to be a good citizen and read books” on TV is not enough when the national library still doesn’t recognize it’s not in the 80s anymore.

I’m not sure if anyone are willing to fight for more public libraries but I do know local booksellers would appreciate this stance more if people continually abuses their products.

But first, the public who love going to bookstores or even book fairs need a fresh education on not abusing books.

I never been a bookseller nor work in a bookstore before so I don’t get any inside stories of how things works but as a book lover, I find this trend of book abuse is similar to book burning.

I really wish I have enough guts to tell people off but I’m not sure it will do any good if they still think they don’t think what they’re doing is wrong. But won’t it be for the bookstores’ staff themselves to continuously educate their customers. But now it was kind of ridiculous but…. even now, there are people in bookstores treating books like shit. And its getting even worst as more people think its okay to do that way.

So, I just hope that I wont get a book that I really really want to be found torn apart before I had the chance to rescue it from the shelves.

But just remember, a brain cell die each time you abuse a book.

Wait… this is much better… a kitten die whenever you abuse a book in a bookstore….


…that one kitten…

Respect books as you would respect anyone in your life. Anything you learn came from the written knowledge of those who died before us. Many civilization dies and left nothing but written words. And from me, these written words only paint you as the destroyer of books.

Read it and weep.

3 thoughts on “Bookstore Etiquette and Book Abuse : Is it up to the Bookstores or the Customers?

  1. I can certainly relate to this. The only time when I want to browse through a thick reference hardback is when I am sure I will buy it. In my case, I will always check the content by going through first as they offer a preview. So, I won’t bother browsing through the books when I arrive at the bookstore. I will go to the information counter at Borders and ask the assistance of the staff to peel off the plastic wrapping.

    However, there are those who are irresponsible who didn’t bother doing so and I found some of the hardbacks left unwrapped on the bookshelf. It pisses me off but I don’t know who did that. For me, those encyclopedias that I bought are treasures – all books for that matter are treasures and should be treated with respect.

  2. Hi, nice article. One tip though: I wouldn’t include so many animated gifs in your article if I was you. It’s very distracting, and it makes it hard to read the actual article. Keep writing good stuff!

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