Chatting With: Vanittha, Founder Of A Word Affair Bookshop

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you did before this?

I studied mass communication and have mainly been involved in writing and editing. I worked as a copywriter for an advertising agency for about two years, followed by a stint as a freelance feature writer for some magazines. In the late 90s, I decided to take my Scrabble hobby more seriously and from then on Scrabble has dictated my career path, with intervals of Scrabble training between subediting jobs at a publishing company and a newspaper. 

What inspired you to open a bookshop?

I was selling books at Amcorp Mall as a volunteer to raise funds for a literacy project back in 2015. Quite a few people asked us whether they could trade their books for the books that we were selling. We said no because it was a charity project. But that gave me the idea for my book exchange program, Itch 2 Switch, which was how it all began. I started off with 200 books of my own on weekends at Amcorp Mall. The program was going well in the beginning, but after some time I found that the rarer books weren’t coming back, haha. So  I started experimenting with a library idea which led to my amassing a collection of about 4,000 books.  The library fee was RM10 a month for an unlimited number of reads, but one book at a time. Unfortunately, the library idea didn’t  really take off because those who did try it out didn’t seem to have the time to finish reading even one book a month. It wasn’t working and that’s how the bookshop came about. Itch 2 Switch is still ongoing though, which makes A Word Affair a sort of library.

How many customers do you receive in a day?

5 – 10 on a normal day. If there’s a special event, like 10 or below, it would be more than that. But most of my customers prefer buying online on the FB page.

How do they find out about your bookshop?

Mainly from Facebook, and, of course, Amcorp Mall.

Name at least 5 books that changed your life

a) Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search for who We are by Ann Druyan and Carl Sagan. This book introduced me to the theory of evolution. It had an impact on how I view religion. It made me question a lot of things. Really, a lot of things.

b) All my Enid Blyton books. I read her books over and over again as a kid, and sometimes even now as an adult. I’d say her books sparked off my interest in journalism and writing.

c) The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. The The book explains how evolution works. If Carl Sagan’s book earlier explained its history, this book shows you very clearly exactly how it happens. 

d) His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman. The book is very philosophical.

e) Milan Kundera. All his works have had an impact but it was his nonfiction books (Art of the Novel and The Curtain) especially that taught me to look at literary works in a completely different way.

Last question, your favourite publisher?

Penguin.

A Word Affair operates in several locations. Be sure to check out its pop-in hours here. Amcorp Mall mostly on Saturdays where Ms Vannitha will be selling her books there via a small event booth. Alternatively, you may head over to its pop-up store at Pop by Jaya One. The pop-up store opens every day. The bookshop at Sri Desa opens mostly on Sundays at a Multipurpose hall, Desa Permai Condo, Jalan Morib, Taman Desa, 58100 KL. You may park outside, or at Basement 3 (look for the visitors’ lots) and take the lift up to the ground floor. The hall is right next to the lifts.


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