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Malaysia's bookshop boom: a bricks-and-mortar revival

Unconventional business models, pandemic-changed reading habits fuel upsurge

Perusing the shelves at a BookXcess store in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo by Paulius Staniunas)

When former journalists Fong Min Hun and Elaine Lau opened Lit Books in Kuala Lumpur in 2017, they fielded "a lot of skepticism" about the prospect of running a bricks-and-mortar bookshop. Critics speculated that it was a sunset industry, and that people were only interested in e-books now.

"But no," says Lau. "People still read physical books." And so the husband-and-wife team rented a shop with high ceilings and ample sunlight.

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