Established in 1996, the University of Santo Tomas Publishing House (USTPH) has released numerous literary and scholarly titles as well as textbooks. As part of the Pinoy Book Stop Tour, we interviewed USTPH Director John Jack Wigley to learn more about their new bookstore.
Which section of the bookstore attracts more visitors?
I would say that the textbook section of our store still attracts the most visitors, mostly because we are primarily an academic publishing house, and producing resources for tertiary education is still our priority. The next most popular section of our bookstore is the literature section, as many of our poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction titles are the reason customers flock to our store.
If you were given more space, what would you add?
If it were completely up to us, we would put up a readers’ café inside the bookstore. Also, we would expand the reading area or lounge so that it could double as a pleasant space where book launches could be held.
What surprised you the most about running a bookstore?
While our new bookstore is actually in operation for less than three months, it never fails to surprise me that many of our students (and even non-Thomasians) will spend money on literary titles that are not part of their required reading for the term. It surprises me because a) it is a sad but accepted fact that the Philippines hardly possesses what one would call a “reading culture” (we are more of a “visual people” so entertainment events and spaces—such as malls, cinemas and concert halls—are really what would draw crowds); and 2) given this fact, it would appear that students would often budget their allowances for something else, like food or gadgets. But it always puts a smile on my face when we receive emails or private messages on our Facebook page that our very own students share our posts on new titles and endorse the title to their friends with their corresponding review (we do get a number of these). For an academic publisher, this is validation that we are doing something good.
What’s unique about your bookstore?
I suppose the most unique thing about the UST Bookstore is that it is the newest bookstore from the oldest University in Asia (since 1611). It also is housed at the Ground Floor of the Main Building, which is a National Heritage site. Our current location is therefore blessed with much historical and cultural significance.
The Pinoy Book Stop Tour is an NBDB-spearheaded project that aims to feature independent and campus-based bookstores, libraries, and book museums within and south of Metro Manila and showcase excellent books by Filipino authors and publishers. The tour will be conducted on April 7-8, 2017, in celebration of Buwan ng Panitikan (National Literature Month).