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How This Indie Book Fair Infuses Old Ideals Into a Disrupted Industry

Komura; found its audience in the community of self-published creatives in the Philippines

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BY Ezra Ferraz - 05 Dec 2017

How This Indie Book Fair Infuses Old Ideals Into a Disrupted Industry

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Nearly two decades after Amazon.com wiped out most booksellers in the United States, there has been a resurgence of the indie bookstore which prides itself on curation and community.

The book scene in Southeast Asia has undergone a far less cataclysmic change, but that’s not stopping Kayla Dionisio and Czyka Tumaliuan from trying to infuse the industry with old ideals. They felt that existing book fairs in the Philippines were less about the literary community and more about bookstores trying to get rid of surplus stock.

According to Dionisio, they started indie book fair Komura; to bring back the feeling of wonder in discovering a great book.

“We wanted to create a gathering conducive for genuine conversations and connections with the ones who create the books and the ones who read them — that is often lost in highly commercial fairs that treat book buying as a sheer business transaction,” she says.

The branding of Komura; was designed to appeal to this community. In Haruki Murakami’s novel “Kafka on the Shore,” the protagonist runs away from home and lives in a library called Komura Memorial Library.

“We placed a semicolon after the word Komura; to highlight how we want the book fair to be a place where independent energies are united without losing their essence, like how a semicolon connects independent clauses,” says Tumaliuan.

Gathering support for Komura; was not easy. The co-founders say they were rejected by some of their favorite independent bookstores and publishers because they did not have a name yet. Others questioned their ability to market the event. They persisted by cold calling and emailing the organizations they wanted to be a part of Komura; even during weekends and holidays.

Eventually, the co-founders found their audience in the community of self-published creatives in the Philippines. “They’re looking for a group of people who could relate to them, not just an e-commerce site where they can sell their works. You can’t really sell or buy genuine human connections online,” Dionisio says.

The first incarnation of Komura; finally ran on November 18 of this year at co-working space Warehouse Eight. It welcomed underrepresented local publishers, independent authors, zine artists (a zine is a self-published work with a small circulation), and storytellers — spanning across music, theatre, and even virtual reality.

“We also invited the Spark Project to talk about crowdfunding to help the local community of independent publishers learn an effective way to fund their projects through technology,” says Tumaliuan.

Komura; was favorably received by its audience. “Most of the people loved the vibe and intimacy of the event. They also enjoyed that beers were available. The atmosphere was chill and not intimidating. We felt that it was a treat for the vendors, as much as it was for us and the guests,” says Dionisio.

The co-founders will hold their second Komura; next year, this time possibly a two-day affair. They are also planning on smaller, stand-alone events, such as dialogues on independent publishing which try to maintain the same vibe.

Tumaliuan will continue to sell books online as part of her bookstore, Kwago.

“But there will be more fairs and shops that will offer and support alternative literature because these platforms allow genuine interactions and human exchanges that can only be simulated and not replicated by digital technology as of the moment,” says Tumaliuan.