Individuals and university students from cities within a distance come to browse and read books and magazines which can be purchased through their online store
Founders, husband and wife team, Kafka and Yang Half, set up the art bookstore One Half In, in 2015, in Zhoushan, China, selling photography books, magazines and zines from around the world. Neither having an understanding or background in independent-publishing and independent-bookselling, they felt inspired to open a bookstore after visiting Bananafish Books in Shanghai in 2009. Kafka and her husband are interested in the arts: «my husband has a passion for photography publications and I have it for art films and independent-publications». In her spare time Kafka visits art and photography exhibitions. Prior to opening One Half In, Kafka kept tabs on the developments of independent-bookstores in China and abroad, «we were determined to broaden our knowledge of magazines and art books and became acquainted with senior players in the independent-publishing industry, who were influential in the opening of our store». The name of the bookstore refers to the hope that the bookshop «would not be complete, but an unfinished circle, a half circle», the name stems from her son’s English name, Half.
Before Kafka’s involvement in the independent-bookshop industry, she studied international economics and trade. Her passion for the arts emanated from her infatuation for art films, as they educated her on «forms of art and cultures» and inspired her to expand her knowledge of literature. In the beginning they «sold photography books, zines and art books by Chinese publishers and at that time we had zines from over the world». One Half In focused on its coffee business, as it kept the «bookstore running, attracting people’s attention, and encouraged them to enter the store and browse our selection. My husband is a fan of coffee». The store was laid out like an exhibition, having a limited number of books for sale. Half a year in, the bookshelves started to replace the coffee tables, as One Half In ordered magazines and focused on the arts. In 2017, One Half In relocated to Zhoushan, in one of the old-districts. The location enabled One Half In to have the coffee area and bookstore in separate rooms. They started participating in book fairs in China and Japan. One Half In focuses on photography, art, design, illustration and lifestyle. «We consider the popularity of a magazine and its audience». Kafka underlines the significance of following magazines on social media, as a way of increasing exposure and following the progress of publishers and magazines. The use of subscription websites like Stack «allows us to view other independent-magazine publishers». A method of sourcing and ascertaining information on magazines adopted by Kafka is visiting art book fairs which creates connections and enables them to get in contact with editors in chief who contact them on Instagram.
Chinese bookstores tend to have limited reading facilities, One Half In has space, holding a projection room where they used to screen art films on a weekly basis. «People in China do not have exposure to art films and their discourse. The projection room has nothing to do with the bookstore, we hope it will co-exist with One Half In and share experiences with likeminded people», says Kafka. «The bookstore should be part of everyday existence», the downstairs rooms are connected by an arch where «one room is for drinking coffee and socializing and the other showcases the magazine and book collection». Upstairs there are two rooms, one is utilized for exhibiting rare-magazines and photography books. When customers enter, they see a wall of magazines. The other room is a private-studio space closed to the public. One Half In’s customers are not local but come from Beijing and Shanghai. Individuals and university students from cities within a distance come to browse and read books and magazines which can be purchased through One Half In’s online store. «We ship the world over». Their customers work in the art and design sector. University students that frequent One Half In study within these creative fields. Kafka acknowledges the issue in attracting customers in her city who are from the neighborhood. She attributes the lack of customers from the locality to the development and urbanization of Zhoushan and Zhoushan Archipelago: «our city is an island and is connected to mainland China via bridges, the youth that is involved in creative sectors leave our island to find opportunities in mainland China». A customer was interested in limited magazine publications, polaroid’s photography and ED music. They first met in Zhuzhou, «we opened our pop-up shop, and he began joining the activities we held in cities, he started to share his collection and we became friends». He helped in setting up groups that shared ED music on social media applications during the Covid-19, «I am not equipped at social media and he aids us on that front».
There has been a trend taking place within the Chinese bookstore industry. Bookstores that feature a space with designed furnishings and a variety of books have opened. Kafka is not for these bookstores, «they are keen on having visibility on the internet, people visit these bookstores to take pictures and post them on social media». One Half In hosts sessions, workshops, exhibitions and pop-up stores. For example, they held an exhibition and a sharing session for Lost magazine issue 3. They hold screen-printing workshops, provide exchange venues for student organizations of universities, screen independent-Chinese documentary films. Bookmart, a pop-up store initiated by One Half In, opened four times in cities throughout China: «we choose spaces like bookstores, coffee shops and design stores and have hosted reading exchange sessions. Through this project we hoped to realize the functionality of One Half In». Promoting awareness of issues associated with climate change, Kafka underlines the importance for bookstores, no matter the size, to participate in the fight against climate change and to promote development in sustainability. She outlines the initiatives pursued by One Half In, «we encourage our readers to reduce the use of plastic bags. We have introduced recycled tote bags for online orders, and have reduced the use of plastic packaging where possible».
One Half In is playing a role within the community of Zhoushan, as the area is experiencing a revival in arts and humanities: Zhoushan is in the process of building a garden city by the sea and has plans to attract people to visit, study and work. «A bookstore is a platform that can bring people with likeminded perceptions together and form bonds that influence the environment of the community. We are asked if we will open a store in the future or move to another city but we will not leave Zhoushan or the community where the bookstore is located today. We hope that the city’s reading environment will improve and that our bookstore can influence the youth».IMAGE GALLERY
One Half In
No. 65, Dongguan Temple Lane
Zhoushan City, Zhejiang