The bookman who embraced Penang


Penang’s street of harmony – Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling – has a new place of worship, where joss sticks and prayer mats are exchanged for the mesmerising smell of freshly opened books. Most importantly, all ethnic groups are welcome.

Perched at the corner of a busy intersection on Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling, Gerakbudaya’s clever logo depicts an open book whose pages are curled as if they are about to fly. A very apt depiction, because it is here that any Penangite can come to enrich themselves with books and culture.

Related to the homonymous Petaling Jaya imprint but also fiercely independent, Gerakbudaya’s wheel is held by Gareth Richards, a former university lecturer, cinema d’essai connoisseur and international cultural wrestler. In November, I decided to pay him a visit at the bookstore from where he runs his editorial empire, and ask him a few questions about the book business in Penang and the status of Malaysia’s publishing industry today.

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