BY FIEL ESTRELLA
Even in a decidedly digital world, the charm of bookstores never ceases. This is especially true for secondhand, mom-and-pop shops, the kind that always carry the smell of old books, with shelves and shelves of titles you’ve been looking for and always wanted. The people behind the counter are friendly, and you find yourself staying a few extra minutes because you wind up chatting about literature. There’s nothing like collecting and cracking open real books you can hold in your hands, nothing like entering the store and wandering around the colorful aisles.
Launched in 2002 by Lito and Meldy Fider, Books for Less was one such haven for the bookish. When they decided to rebrand the family bookstore, their daughter Isabel was entrusted to liven it up with her vision. In 2016, when Isabel was a sophomore in university, this vision was developed and conceptualized into Biblio.
Upon first glance, Biblio stands out because it’s fully open, with industrial interiors meant to capture the feel of New York City cafes. It’s a look that aims to maintain the essence of Books for Less, “which is to bring books closer to people,” says eldest child Mark Fider, who is also managing director of both bookstores.
“Biblio goes beyond books,” he adds. “We aim to bring forward an experience.”
With branches in UP Town Center, Ayala Malls Feliz, Ayala Malls Cloverleaf, and Ayala Malls The 30th, Biblio boasts a wide variety of titles which are curated according to the demand at each branch. “We hold titles from Dr. Seuss to Charles Dickens!” says Mark. “Surveying the sales and understanding the market helps us bring books closer to those who want them.” At UP Town Center, for example, classics sell better, while customers in Cloverleaf really enjoy bestsellers.
Recently, in hopes of attracting collectors and enthusiasts, they introduced a special section dedicated to vintage books from the 20th century and earlier. They also understand the come-and-go nature of titles in pre-owned bookshops, making it a little difficult to find the exact book you want. To solve this, they welcome book requests, which they fulfill by searching their warehouse and stores.
“From the children’s books, hopefully to encourage early book worms, to the academic titles, we hope you find what you’re looking for,” Fider says.
At Biblio, everyone is welcome to stay for as long as they want. With the exception of the vintage collection, none of the books are covered so readers can freely browse, open them, and see what they hold before purchasing.
And if spending an hour or two just reading isn’t enough, the UP Town Center and Cloverleaf branches also serve coffee brewed from local highland beans and Picole pops in unique, healthy flavors. “Coffee and books naturally come together,” Fider notes. “We are currently working on developing our own unique Biblio blend and serving coffee to all our branches. Hopefully, it will be one that our customers will love and come back for!”
Why is it that coffee and books go so well together, anyway? “We think it might be the experience of being so engrossed in a title that the only other thing you reach for would be a warm cup of freshly brewed coffee,” he posits. “A huge plus is the aroma coffee brings into our stores! It makes wanting to read even more appealing.”
It’s an experience he hopes customers discover through the store, which goes beyond the search for books to buy. It’s also about relaxing, he says, and taking your time with a cup of coffee.
Biblio continues to grow and adapt to the modern world’s penchant for instant gratification, with efforts to expand its digital platform. But Fider is hopeful and optimistic about its future. “We observed that while the demand for books has changed over the years, it still remains very much present,” he says. “Especially knowing that despite the digital age, we’ve come to realize that nothing can change the experience of reading a physical copy of a book.”