A block of books has its trial phase in Beijing
Wang Siwen

Thousands are gathering for the 28th Beijing International Book Fair. But that's not all. The festival is not only attracting readers, but the city is stepping up efforts to provide them with extra nourishment.

Located in the Chinese capital's historic commercial area of Qianmen, Page One is one of the most popular bookstores in Beijing. This massive bookstore stocks hundreds of English-language and art and design books and it's recently expanded to include more categories.

Mr Li, a customer, said of the bookstore: "Sometimes when you sit here and read books or you look up and see the view of Qianmen, it feels like you are traveling through time. I feel serenity here and it's better to read at a bookstore instead of a coffee house."

Just a block away at Nanxiaoshun Hutong is Hua Diehui, a bookstore tailored for women that offers weekly seminars and lectures. Xiao Shuying is a clothing bookstore where people can pick up a story about Chinese fashion. Another attraction is a teahouse-themed bookstore called Kungfu Pu'er Tea, where people can have a cup of tea while enjoying a good read.

Integrating bookstores with social life, clothing and tea culture, the "book" street is on the trial phase of operation, and the next phase is already under construction, aiming to create a living room full of books and vitality.

For privately operated bookstores, it's still challenging to make a living. Wu Yanping, the managing partner of the bookstore One Way Space, said the bookstore has struggled to stay afloat in a challenging economy and he decided to diversify to attract people.

From chain bookstores to creative 'book' street to traditional private bookstore, bookstore owners in Beijing are racking their brains to win back customers to the printed word.

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