Docked in Bangkok’s Klong Toey harbor, and visiting Thailand for a limited time, is the world’s largest floating bookstore. The Logos Hope, a renovated 1973 German car ferry, is sailing the globe with human and literary cargo sharing knowledge, hope and help with people around the world.
While visiting ports for between one to four weeks, readers are welcomed aboard to learn the ship’s history, browse 5,000 different titles of books, watch educational videos and snack in their international cafe.
The Logos Hope is the largest of four vessels in the GBA fleet and since 1970 all four of their ships have visited over 500 different ports in 160 countries. During that time their decks have cumulatively welcomed over 40 million readers, some of whom were buying books for the first time. The Logos Hope is currently the only vessel in active service and its shelves and shelves of books are what helped it earn the title of “World’s largest floating bookstore.”
The boat is staffed with around 400 volunteers who’ve made a 2 year commitment to be at sea. Volunteers hail from 45 different countries and each brings with them their own unique story. From welcoming visitors at the gates, for a small 20 Baht entry fee, to helping find books and sharing what life is like on the ship they all do a fantastic job of making sure each visitors enjoys their experience onboard.
When visitors first enter there’s a small ‘life boat’ style theatre showing videos to help orient guests to the boat prior to heading into the book fair. The boat is no Amazon.com but it does have an extensive range of subjects including classics, biographies, fiction, travel and cooking. There is also a wide selection of kids books which helps get them excited and encourages reading.
Pricing is a tough issue as the boat is constantly moving from country to country. To keep prices reasonable they’re set in units which are then converted to a local currency. For example, while browsing I picked up Oliver Twist which was priced at 150 units. At 80 Baht per 100 units this brought the price to a total of 120 Baht. To get a timeless paperback classic for $4.00 is a steal and I think these attractive prices encourage kids put down their Kindles and iPads and get back into hard copies. There is something to be said about holding a book, flipping through the pages and taking in the smell of the paper and ink.
Although I didn’t buy any books, I did enjoy watching people of all ages getting excited about reading. It’s not everyday that people have access inside a ship of this size, let alone one that’s the world’s largest floating bookstore. Seeing the big smiles on kids faces while they were buying books was a great sight. As I proceeded through the checkout and made my way to the international cafe I saw those same smiles double in size as they realized there were cookies, ice cream and popcorn available after the book fair.
As I made my way out, I observed the hoards of people laughing and smiling as they carried their new books off the ship. Hopefully, with the help of places and event like this, the electronic age won’t completely take over and books will still have a place on our shelves.
Upcoming Ports: The Logos Hope will be docked in Bangkok until March 13, 2013. It is then sailing to Hong Kong, arriving on March 20th and staying until April 2nd. The ship’s visiting hours here in Bangkok are 10am-9:oopm (Tuesdays to Saturdays) and 2pm-9:30pm on Sunday’s and Monday’s, however, I am not sure if these hours will stay the same at future ports. If you would like to learn more about the ship and where it will be in the future you can visit The Logos Hope website for more details.