Final Chapter for Another Hong Kong Bookstore

Flowbooks, one of the last independent bookstores in Hong Kong, will shut its doors on October 2 due to financial difficulties.

The 20-year-old bookstore in Central, which sells mostly secondhand volumes, was padlocked in May when it was unable to pay the long-overdue rent. After raising more than HK$152,000 from the public, it reached an agreement with its landlord for a short reopening period in September.

However, Flowbooks was forced to close, as it was unable to meet the September 30 deadline to pay existing debt and a deposit for a new lease. “We didn’t hit the target, so we have to… accept that we have to move out of the place,” said Surdham Lam, the 53-year-old owner. “We have a few more days to pack up.”

Hong Kong has not been kind to the bookselling industry in recent years. The Australian-based chain Dymocks closed down in January 2015, while Page One shuttered last November.

The retail industry suffered a further shock in 2015 with the apparent abduction by Mainland security forces of five booksellers who sold titles critical of the Beijing authorities.

Lam said that although he found another site for Flowbooks, he lacks sufficient funds to do so. In the meantime, he has found some booksellers who will take care of some of his stock.

“We hope that people can still seize the day,” he said. “Even with one day left, we hope that people can still treasure the memory of this place and find some time to take some pictures and some books home.”

Earlier this month, Flowbooks received a donation of more than 1,000 books from the collection of the late businessman and philanthropist Sir David Tang, and had reached an initial agreement with La Salle College, Tang’s alma mater, to open an exhibition there in the future.

Martin Choi is a master’s degree graduate from the University of Hong Kong's Journalism and Media Studies Centre.