5 Reasons Why We Stan This Sustainable Book Fair
STORY: Farhan Shafie
23 April 2021
Happy World Book Day (23 April) to all you bookworms and bibliophiles!
Oh the joy of browsing through books and discovering new titles. As much as I love diving into the fresh pages of my latest read, I am equally guilty of discarding them afterwards, which leads to my books piling up at home.
Eddie Lim is the CEO and co-founder of Thryft, Singapore's first sustainable online bookstore and he wants to create a sustainable reading culture that extends the shelf life of each book. The business has now grown to include a signature event: their monthly Thryft Book Fair.
"There is a book for everyone. We rotate our selection of books each month, so you can look forward to fresh finds at every event!" says Eddie, who hopes to create a space for the reading community to gather, find new reads, and maybe even make new friends.
Not convinced yet? Here are five reasons you should totally check out the next Thryft book bazaar.
1. Giving pre-loved books a second chance
According to Eddie, the average Singaporean household has 52 books each! (Wait, what? So many meh!) Many of these books are either kept in storage for long periods of time, or worse, thrown out after some time, all while readers continue to buy new titles to add to their shelves. Ahem, guilty.
"We seek to create a sustainable alternative to meet the demand for books without producing more waste," Eddie explains, "hence all our books are second-hand — traded-in or donated by our users."
While buying second-hand sometimes gets a bad rap for being troublesome and unreliable, Eddie and his team aim to change that notion with Thryft's centralised platform, a credit system and consistent algorithm-based pricing mechanism.
"We encourage readers to trade-in their books so that they can spend the credits on other books that they want from the Thryft store," he says. "This way, readers are giving their old books a new home while building a circular economy with minimal wastage."
For those who might be more skeptical of buying second-hand items, it is also a chance to come down and check out the conditions of the books first before purchasing them.
2. Handpicked titles and curated sections
A common complaint of second-hand book fairs is the fact that they're usually haphazardly arranged, to the point where you wouldn't even know where to start.
Eddie recognises this and wants to create a fun experience for visitors to the book fair and reward them by including books that cannot be found on their online store - this means everything from a bargain corner and vintage classics to special guest-curated collections. A book lover's dream, basically.
"For each book fair, we bring down over 2,000 books from a variety of genres, including our most popular categories such as English Literature and Personal Development, and interest categories like Graphic Design and Social Sciences," says Eddie.
The book fair also caters to all ages with children's books and young adult fiction titles for the young ones. "Ultimately, we hope that each person leaves the book fair with a new read that they're excited about," says Eddie.
Also recently added are Thryft's book bundles, each comprising two to three handpicked titles from a specially curated genre. For example, one bundle could include "Tales from Dublin", "SingLit Pioneers", and "Best of Gabriel Garcia Marquez". These books are selected by guest curators such as local poet Theophilus Kwek and Thryft's very own residential bookworm, Jia Wen.
"Through the book bundles, our curators are able to pick books that best speak to the issues close to their hearts and close to our homes," says Eddie.
3. A sustainable initiative
Eddie, who is currently a Year 3 student at Yale-NUS College, cites his time in university as a turning point as it allowed him to witness first-hand the community’s love for books as well as the problems they faced which were prevalent in the wider community locally as well.
"I have an interest in building systemic solutions for sustainability, and, with an exposure to technological methods though a previous job, I was then inspired to come up with Thryft to solve these challenges," says Eddie.
Thryft's online platform is part of the team's green strategy to keep books affordable for users, while increasing their accessibility and convenience for buyers and those looking to trade-in or donate books.
The bookstore's sustainable initiatives include avoiding unnecessary packaging waste as much as possible and practising plastic-free packaging. All books are individually wrapped with care using only repurposed or recycled paper and twine. Many readers have even gone on to upcycle the packaging further, such as turning it into a bookmark.
"We also contribute part of our profits towards sustainable initiatives. Last year, we donated to WWF-Singapore’s For Nature For Us community and recovery programme," says Eddie.
"For books that we receive but do not meet our quality standards, we either donate them to our non-profit organisation partners or recycle them responsibly."
Eddie mentions that Thryft has donated over 1,200 books and recycled 1,532kg of books with their recycling partner, saving an equivalent of 29 trees, 642 gallons of oil, 11,821 gallons of water, and more. Talk about an eco-warrior.
4. Embracing both the brick-and-mortar and online experience
With more online platforms popping up, are brick-and-mortar bookstores becoming a thing of the past? Eddie disagrees and offers his own thoughts on the argument.
"I believe that both platforms have their own merits - I personally enjoy the physical book-browsing experience very much myself, and also love to see our users pick out books in person at the book fair," he says.
While he admits that online platforms have proven to be convenient and efficient - something that was highlighted during the Circuit Breaker Period last year - Eddie envisions an ecosystem that embraces both brick-and-mortar bookstores and online platforms in tandem where users get to enjoy their full benefits.
"I hope to work with our local second-hand stores who have played an important role in the ecosystem of second-hand books in Singapore, to create such a ecosystem in the near future," he says.
5. Discounts and rewards
Who doesn't love a good bargain? In celebration of Earth Day (22 April) and World Book Day which happens back to back this year, Thryft is having a 10% storewide discount and a double points campaign happening over 22-25 April which includes a lucky draw. (Details of the rewards programme can be found here. Don't say we never share, hor.)
If you're wondering which books to purchase at the fair, Eddie offers his recommendations based on what he is currently reading: