Robert Frank, Book and films, 1947-2016
On the last day of May 2020, the first and only bookstore in Taipei to operate continuously around the clock turned out its lights. Eslite Bookstore’s Dunhua shop was the world’s first 24-hour bookstore. Established in 1989, the company launched its ambitious experiment in the Dunhua district of central Taipei in 1999, For the next twenty-one years, the lights were always on.
Life as I remember it in Taipei in the 1990s was a busy affair. Labor laws limiting work hours had not yet been enacted, and the Taiwanese economy was making its final push toward the end of the twentieth century. Many people, myself included, worked late into the night, and in addition to the convenience stores that had never shut their doors to start with, restaurants and karaoke spots began to stay open all night, too. Around this time, Eslite Bookstore began to leave its mark on our memories. The store was an ideal spot to meet friends in the middle of the night. Adored by locals and tourists alike for its comfortable atmosphere and enormous selection of books, it had been described by CNN and
Time magazine as “the coolest bookstore in the world” and “the best bookstore in Asia.”
But the owner of the building which housed the bookstore decided to tear it down and replace it with a hotel. And so, at midnight on May 31st, the Eslite Group closed the store after a month of farewell events. Another branch took over the 24-hour schedule in its stead. During the Dunhua store’s last week, the president of Taiwan herself stopped by to make a purchase and