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A publisher and his passion for books

Inside Beepub Bookstore Photo: Billie Feng

“I am one of those stupid people who dare to run a bookstore in this high-tech age,” said Zhang Yehong (Mars Zhang, 张业宏), general manager of a small privately owned publishing company called Beepub. With a pair of black-rimmed glasses, Zhang may appear to be a bit bookish, but he becomes talkative as soon as one raises the topic of books and the publishing industry.

Childhood love for books

Zhang communicates with a reader in his bookstore Photo: courtesy of Zhang Yehong 

Zhang’s love for books started from childhood when picture-story books were popular in China. During the 1970s and 1980s, reading books at a newsstand was cheap, costing only one or two fen (the smallest unit of Chinese currency, equal to $0.16 cents) per book.

“I spent part of my pocket money on reading picture-story books at newsstands on the street because I couldn’t afford to take them home,” he said, “My first contact with Chinese classics, such as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义), Water Margin (水浒传) and Journey to the West (西游记), was from those picture-story books. I found them interesting and got into the habit of reading books. I cherish those days reading on the street,” Zhang smiled.

Zhang started to learn to write compositions in primary school. “My teacher always praised me for my articles and this encouraged me to read more books to improve my writing. Therefore, I started to borrow books from libraries or children’s palaces,” Zhang said.

Zhang’s father was working as a teacher in his primary school, so he had some kind of privilege. “Sometimes I went into his office after school and read some books reserved for teachers. That’s why I had a good performance in school and was elected commissary in charge of studies in my class,” he said proudly.

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