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World at the Corner, Bangkok. Motivating customers to visit the places they find in the books they read

Visiting bookstores in every country they toured, Nat and Sivika Prakobsantisuk have curated books based on cultures from around the world to give the reader a sense of exploration

World at the Corner is a bookstore founded by fashion photographer, Nat Prakobsantisuk and his sister Sivika, a writer that specializes in travel and culture pieces. The bookshop opened its doors in July 2019. «Completing my Bachelor of Arts degree at Chulalongkorn University, I was assigned to read external-reading materials which were out of reach, as they were expensive. The readings they gave us were a task. Growing into adulthood I realized the peace I experienced in reading a book». The photographer’s perception of owning a bookstore was the equivalent to Barnes & Noble. Dreaming of owning a bookstore for over a decade, the siblings decided to turn their dream into a reality following their visit to an international-book fair in Beijing, in March 2019. «I assumed we would be rejected from the book fair because I am not a trader and have no experience running a business. My work has been freelance based. They were encouraging and gave us the strength we needed to open our bookshop. When we returned home, a friend asked me if I was interested in starting something, and if so, I should start it now. That was the beginning of World at the Corner». The pair hoped to visit a book fair which was to take place in Hong Kong in 2019, but had to be cancelled due to the monsoon that season witnessed.

Making contacts from the book fairs they attended, Nat Prakobsantisuk was able to source items for the store. Opening as an independent-bookstore, World at the Corner features English-language books that the siblings have a passion for. Fiction of people from around the world, travel novels, cookery books and popular-readings on cultures are what to expect inside. Nat and Sivika Prakobsantisuk have been experienced travelers for twenty years. Taking a month’s leave at a time during the new-year, the pair have travelled Nepal, India, Morocco, Yemen, Mexico, Guatemala and Peru. «Along our travels, we collected books about the places we were going to as an incentive». Visiting bookstores in every country they toured, the books found on the shelves of World at the Corner are divided into sections appointed to these continents. «There is a selection of books that remind me of places in the world. We have ten years of cultural proficiency. Sivika and I appreciate meeting communities and people watching while sipping coffee. These involvements gave us an essence of dissimilar societies, which became the idea behind our name – World at the Corner». The store is said to invite readers to travel the world through a collection of books that reflect cultures. «The God of Small Things, is a book that reminds the reader of the smells and pleasures of India». The philosophy of their bookstore is the idea that reading is able to paint a picture in someone’s mind. World at the Corner is intended to motivate customers to visit the places they find inside the books they read. 

interior world at the corner
The store invites readers to travel the world through a collection of books that reflect cultures

Located in the Rattanakosin area, known as the Old Town, it is beneath the Chao Phraya River and embodies some of the city’s landmarks. The bookstore is situated on Soi Mahannop street near the giant-swing, in a deep-rooted part of Bangkok. The bookstore exists inside a house that has been there for over one-hundred years. The position of the bookstore is a five-minute walk from where Prakobsantisuk lives. «Growing up I passed the house every day. I remember walking past one afternoon and noticing it was available to rent. It felt like fate, as I was in the process of relocating my office and was looking for a place to occupy». For the first three years of renting, the pair used the house as an office space. «The bookstore being placed here was accidental. The tenants before us ran a bar called Lollipops, where they oil painted every room in the house a bright and luminous color. The owners were unaware until they allowed me to view the home. I made an impulse decision to take the house and maintain the colored walls. People have told me it emotes standing in your living room». Purchasing bookshelves, the store is equipped with their belongings. «I am a fifty-six-year-old fashion photographer, who will one day need to retire. I felt that I needed a sanctuary, which is why I have made the atmosphere of World at the Corner exude tranquility. I use my senses to alter the design of the store on a regular-basis which is what people gather as soon as they step in». Nat and Sivika Prakobsantisuk want their customers to perceive walking into the bookstore as visiting a friend’s house. «There is a light that draws upon the shop at around one or two o’clock in the afternoon. The angle of the light changes every month. I alter my furniture to accompany the light. Being a photographer, I am drawn to a sunlit space». Prakobsantisuk spent eight years as a fashion stylist before taking up a freelance career in camerawork. Approaching photography, the way he approaches life, his imagination and sense of adventure are what strive him to achieve. «I consider every step in our lives to have a reason». Prakobsantisuk has been a freelance photographer for over thirty years. He hopes to incorporate fashion and photography books within the year.

World at the Corner bookstore is filled with lamps, cushions, photographs of the siblings from their time travelling, rugs and curtains. It is home to memorabilia from their travels, such as the Lady of Guadalupe doll, Ganesh figures and postcards. Each artefact possesses a meaning and are available for customers to purchase in store. «I am a Buddhist, but I admire every religion. I found the Guadalupe doll in Mexico as we had the opportunity to see the parade they host. We visited the Guadalupe church, and it was an experience. The items I purchased are possessions that pass on my energy to the people who come into the bookstore». The siblings engage in events with their community. Hosting book readings based on their theme of the week, talk sessions about foreign-languages, travelling stories and book clubs about cooking from their choice of cookery books. «We are a shop that can hold up to fifteen people for an event. After two or three months settling in, we got to know our customers and what works for the shop. I have been planning to create an outdoor-space where people in the community can donate their used books to charity. We have come into difficulty due to the amount of rain in Thailand during monsoon season. While we were strategizing a way to build the space, ensuring the books don’t get wet, the coronavirus pandemic hit and put our plans on hold». With business slowing down, the Prakobsantisuk siblings have used their social media platforms to keep their store running. The pair review the books they have online in posts that entail a paragraph about the book, the author and the publisher. Customers are able to view these social media posts and purchase them via their pages. «For the duration of the pandemic, this method of communicating was a benefit».

Today, hardbacks and print features are considered an object of the past and the digital era has risen. With popularity in e-books and corporate companies such as Amazon, Target, Overstock and AliExpress, independent bookstores are having to fight in order to stay open. «I would appreciate people visiting our store and take-in the atmosphere while having a word with us. Holding a book in your hand is an aspect you cannot experience on the internet. When I am searching for a book, I like to close my eyes and use my fingers to open the book they take me to, it enhances the intimacy of the experience». It is a task to know your way around the internet as there are a number of sites that supply readings. «When visiting our bookstore, World at the Corner, you choose a destination and can find our selection of books to choose from. This year is not a suitable time for implementing what we haven’t before, apart from having the time and an assortment of ideas. In 2021, I look forward to having people visit. We want to start traveling again as we haven’t been able to for two years. As we are waiting for life to return to the way it used to be, we are ordering a stock of literature for when customers revisit us. We are planning to open three days a week that will consist of Friday, Saturday and Sunday starting in February. Not being in a state of total lockdown, we are taking the appropriate measures of social distancing, sanitizing and monitoring our health as our customers remain our priority».

IMAGE GALLERY

World at the Corner
1 Mahannop 1 Alley
Sao Chingcha, Phra Nakhon
Bangkok, Thailand

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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