The owner of Phnom Penh's longest-running independent book store is redoubling her efforts to make world-class books affordable and accessible to all in the Kingdom.
D’s Books – Phnom Penh’s longest-running independent book store – is looking to reignite people’s passion for books with events such as the Phsar [email protected] flash sale.
Vantha Douk – known to everyone as “Mom” and the long-serving owner and manager of D’s Books – says books are needed now more than ever.
“The Phsar Book! flash sale at Raintree was a huge success. It was great to connect with new people through books, and I hope that having had their love of books revitalised, they will keep coming back to continue exploring all our books.
“Books are especially important during the difficult current situation. With people nervous about going out due to the Covid pandemic, books help pass the time and enable you to meet new people and explore new worlds,” she said.
Phsar Book! was held at the Raintree modern office rental and events space venue in the capital from January 13-15. Open to everyone, the three-day event was mostly attended by professionals working in the Raintree building and neighbouring offices, as well as university students.
Raintree hailed Mom – who says her “life mission is to build a reading culture for youth in Cambodia to see the beautiful world outside of themselves” – as an inspiration.
“We were inspired by the passionate work that Vantha Douk, the owner of D’s Books, is championing – which is to make world-class books affordable and accessible to all in the country.
“Raintree supports the learning and development of our community, including a reading culture in Cambodia.
“D’s Books is managed by a female entrepreneur, which also speaks to Raintree’s mission to support local and women entrepreneurs,” said Chan Penhleak, community manager at Raintree.
The collaboration with Raintree comes as part of expansion plans for D’s Books, with further such tie-ups planned, as well as online and Facebook sales, and bringing books to the public with stalls at outlets of major coffee chains.
“I have big plans for D’s future.
Fingers crossed that normality can come back soon and all small businesses can move past what has been such a difficult time,” said Mom.
A real book shop for all book lovers, D’s – which Mom says stocks more than 50,000 titles – first opened its doors on Street 240 back in 2004.
“An American named Derrick Goos originally opened D’s Books. I began working there from the first day it opened as customer service staff, helping customers find books and keeping the shop neat and tidy.
“I loved it, and from the first minute had a real passion for all these wonderful books.
“Derrick saw that passion, and when the job of store manager became available, which was previously held by a foreigner, he asked me if I could manage the store. I agreed of course!” Mom recalls.
And it was when Goos sold his interests in the Kingdom that Mom joined the ranks of Cambodia’s female entrepreneurs.
“In 2011, Derrick decided to sell his various businesses, and I didn’t hesitate to buy D’s Books. The shop and our books were like my children then and still are. I’ve never looked back and still love D’s and all our books as much as I did all those years ago.
“We pretty much sell all genres – classics, bestsellers, sci-fi, biographies, modern literature, sci-fi, children’s books. We have some of everything, and for sure a book for anyone looking. Just come by and ask.
“Our children’s books are hugely popular because there aren’t many places offering such a large variety at affordable prices. We supply all the big schools in Phnom Penh,” said Mom.
The market for books is expanding as the culture of reading in Cambodia develops. The Big Bad Wolf Sale in January last year brought more than one million brand new books in English to the Kingdom, while the 8th Cambodia Book Fair held at the National Library the month before attracted 170,000 visitors.
“What has been really great to see over the last five to eight years is that so many Cambodians have started to read more and more, and are coming to the shop.
“They want to read as much as they can and will stay for over an hour picking through our selection and reading different books. They contact us a lot to ask about our stock and the particular books they are looking for.
“This is so special for me because I remember how amazed I was when I first started by the hundreds of wonderful titles and covers, and all the reading I could do when I had a spare moment.
“To see so many Cambodians share my passion for books is just fantastic, and it makes me so happy,” said Mom.