Feature Story – Ange Lim

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Believing that for every problem or challenging issue – there is always an answer or solution which can be found in the wisdom of books is what encouraged this local family to open their first book shop. Alex and Ange Lim started Best Eastern Bookshop 30 years ago in Athirah Plaza a place where they could find answers to their riddles and share them with their customers who were also on a quest for meaning and solutions.

“30 years ago, bookshops were not a trendy business. It was not even the most profitable venture to go into, considering the low profit margin there is with books.” explained Ange. While the couple started the bookshop because of their passion for reading, they also identified a genuine gap in the market which they believed they could help to fill.

According to Ange, “The book business only became fashionable in the early 2000’s when retail book giants such as Borders, MPH and Kinokuniya started expanding in Singapore.” Since then, there has been a surge in the public’s interest in books in this part of the world, including Brunei.

Over the past three decades, Best Eastern has expanded from having one outlet to now having six outlets throughout the country. This is indeed a remarkable achievement considering the size of the market, the change in customer’s lifestyles and the fact that this is an industry which has been crippled by technological devices.

In recent years, like the music industry, the book retail business has also suffered due the mass popularity and easy access to the internet. The instant access to ebooks (at a fraction of the cost), pirate book downloads and the convenience of ordering printed books from Amazon and other retail websites have all helped to put many large and small retailers out of business.

However, walking into a Best Eastern Bookshop today, the quiet optimism of the business is evident in the alluring layout – especially in the kids’ section which now has a vast array of current book titles on display. A well-managed retail outlet by any standard, the store is being run with a lot of passion and attention to details. Ange pointed out the need to be prudent in controlling the costs of the business; and more importantly, the need to have an in depth understanding of the operation in order to ensure its continued survival.

Today at Best Eastern, you will find a particularly impressive children’s section, this is because the owners believe in the importance of reading and literacy to young children. To support this, the bookstore regularly organises activities such as colouring competitions and spelling bees in the shopping malls to encourage children to read.

To outsiders, Best Eastern may just be a bookstore. But to a Bruneian reader who has grown up with Best Eastern, the company has played a pivotal role in positively influencing and improving the reading culture of the society. We asked Ange, what is the key to the company’s success? She answered that their idea of success would be creating the “perfect scenario.”

What is the perfect scenario?
“This would be when our bookshops can accommodate all of our readers’ book requests, from any and every genre.” This is why they started this book shop 30 years ago and it is still what keeps them committed to this important quest.

This article was published in the Oct-Dec 2015 Issue of Inspire Magazine. Download it here!