For Profit Libraries in China are Totally Worth the Membership Cost

Last night, my little family decided we’d get out of the house. My husband has been studying non-stop for his teacher certificate program, and he was getting a little cabin crazy.

So a pizza night it was!

I needed to get yogurt from Sam’s club, so we ended up going to our less favorite mall in Yizhuang. I’m glad we did, because we were forced to explore the mall, looking for an option other than a playground my children have almost outgrown. They still ask to play there, but they’ll play for 20 minutes before they ask us to join in on the monotonous and dangerous fun of tag in an overcrowded kiddie area.

I suppose technically the adults in our family have outgrown that playground.

As we meandered through the halls, desperately looking for an activity to join in together as a family, passing by the sticky “miracle” sandboxes and English cram centers, Bobby called for us to go down a sketchy looking side hall.

It lead all the way to another English cram center, but one shop on the hall was still open for Chinese New Year – a bookstore!

And not just any type of bookstore, but a membership library.

Bobby was skeptical, as normal. He’s the skeptic in our family and I’m the one who gets sucked into pyramid schemes. Seriously, that’s how we met. I was trying to loop him into Quickstar, and he was being skeptical as usual.

But back to the present, the breakdown for the best membership cost was RMB 800 for 30 checkouts with 4 books each time and  no time limit on returns. There also wasn’t a limit on number of English language books like the cheaper membership options.

When I browsed some of the cost of those books, they were between RMB 50 and RMB 300 brand new.  Looking at the cheap end of books, I just saved our family RMB 5,200 by putting caution in the dog house this year.

One of the books we took home – original cost is USD $39…

Although I know there are huge book fairs that Roundabout puts on, I’m not ready to dive into those fairs until my children are self-sufficient readers. I want them to help me do the book digging/shopping at those events. To beat the membership cost, we’d have to purchase 120 books at RMB 6 or less at the Roundabout fairs. Possible? Yes. Worth the time? Definitely when my kids are voracious readers and won’t complain on the long haul up to Shunyi.

…and USD $39 for good reason.

More importantly, I already have shelves of books filled with books I bought in the States. I’ll have to sort through those and donate to the Roundabout fair eventually.

The membership library just makes more sense to me for cost efficiency, space saving, and staying green.

But it also gives us a family activity. We can go hang out on their plush little monster seats, drink free coffee, and color in their art room. That gives us some much needed sanity for a Chinese New Year spent in Beijing.

The good news is that spring is just around the corner!

But how do you find one of these in your part of China? You could either look for a library (图书馆) or a bookstore (书店) on Baidu Maps, or you could ask your Chinese friends if they know of a lending bookstore in your area. This bookstore still hasn’t registered on Baidu Maps, even though having been in business for a year.

What do you do for books in China?

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Vanessa Jencks founded China Family Blog to connect internationally-minded parents through semi-humorous stories and China-life-and-parenting fails. She is the former managing editor of beijingkids magazine; see her previous work here. She is also the founder of the 600+ member organization, Innovative Educators

WeChat: vanessajencks

Photos: Vanessa Jencks, All Rights Reserved

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