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Hanoi Book Company Slammed for 'Book Hotpot' Event Which Offers Books by the Kilogram

A book company’s year-end sale event has become the center of contention for its allegedly disrespectful marketing tactics.

According to Tuoi Tre, Alpha Books, a Hanoi-based publishing house, is holding a major year-end book festival from December 15 to 17. Things would have gone on as normal if the book company hadn't named their event “Lau Sach Cuoi Nam” (Year-end book hotpot), which didn’t sit well with book lovers.

Moreover, some netizens also took offense with the way the company is selling their products. According to the event description, Alpha Books wants to sell 25 metric tons of books at a fixed rate of VND88,000 (around US$4) per kilogram, apart from the normal 50% discount on other titles. This is the first time that a company in Vietnam has sold books in this manner, despite the practice’s popularity overseas.

Many think that the company's marketing of the event makes it seem like they’re selling old newspapers for “ve chai”. This refers to the countless individuals on local streets who go door-to-door buying scrap paper, unused plastic bottles and electronic parts by the kilogram.

The event’s details as posted on Alpha Books’ Facebook page. Photo via Tuoi Tre.

Others say that the event only serves to “cheapen” books, adding insult to injury as Vietnamese are already not considered very appreciative of books. Last year, Le Hoang, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Publishers Association, shared that – excluding textbooks and other reference books like cookbooks – locals only read one book per year.

Author Nguyen Thi Thanh Binh also shared the anti-sale sentiment and criticized the book company for its tone-deaf promotional campaign.

“Actually, this price [VND88,000 per kilogram] is not cheap, but I deplore [the publishing house's] word use,” Binh shared in a Facebook post in Vietnamese. “Not sure if I’m lucky or unlucky, but I’ve never published any book through this company and I don’t have any plan to.”

Some are more sympathetic towards the book company and see the event as a great chance to get titles on their wish list for cheap.

“The value of a book is decided by one who owns it,” Nguyen Thanh Tuan Kiet, a Tuoi Tre reader, writes. “Books are born to be read, so what’s important is whether people will buy them or not, not how they are sold.”

According to Tuoi Tre, Alpha Books recently responded to the backlash with a press release saying that the company is “very regretful that [it] has caused bad feelings among readers and the public regarding [its] ‘experiment in selling books by weight'.”

A representative from the company also told the newspaper that selling books by the kilogram is only a small part of the book fair, and does not make up the entire event.

[Photo via TDTU]


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