Print isn’t dead in Taipei. It’s being kept alive at Boven, a magazine library tucked away in an unassuming Dongchu alleyway. The passionate people behind Boven are Spencer Chou, Ken Peng, and Shawn Hsu. These three are working tirelessly to preserve print. Spencer and Ken met each other while serving in the Taiwanese military, and bonded over their shared interests in printed publications, literature, and design. Together, they founded Boven. Later on, Ken’s high school friend Shawn joined the team and has been invaluable with his expertise in marketing, publishing, and exhibition production. This trio is pushing Boven forward towards becoming more than being a simple magazine library. They aspire for Boven to evolve into a platform where their magazines can be shared and easily accessible by everybody.
The name Boven comes from the Dutch word that means “upstairs”. This name originated from their first location ten years ago in a four-story building in Shilin. This building brought several different businesses together, such as a café, bar, clothing store, and magazine shop. Seeing how successfully these different elements complemented one another led to Boven becoming the magazine library and café that it is today. The concept of “upstairs” is also meant to be a metaphor that represents their persistent step-by-step climb towards achieving their goals.
Boven was finally revived in January of 2015. This new space is a subterranean layer that provides safe haven from the rapid digitalization of the world outside. Currently boasting an impressive collection of over 16,000 magazines from all over the world that cover an entire spectrum of subjects, such as art, fashion, design, architecture, and lifestyle just to name a few. The intended coziness and homeliness of the store is further reinforced through their visitor guidelines, which requires everyone to remove their shoes and change into a pair of slippers. The space is separated into two areas by a black divider. One space is furnished with rows of long tables and lit by white fluorescent light, which fittingly to their title, resembles an actual library. On the other hand, the main area consists of comfortable couches, and the lay out makes it almost feel like a living room. The overall ambience is inviting and beckons visitors to stay a while, read a magazine or two, and relax for an afternoon.
Every month, at least three hundred new magazines are added to their collection. Spencer is in charge of curating the entire magazine collection, and he adoringly views each and every single one of these magazines as priceless treasures. Having read every magazine in the library, he’s even been dubbed as a “human search engine” who’s capable of locating any magazine in the library. Spencer sees print as an important instrument that has recorded the history and culture of countless cities and countries over the course of time, and this mindset is why he believes it’s more important than ever to preserve the disappearing medium.
Boven has plans of expanding the scope of their project. They’re attempting to make print publications even more accessible to people all over Taipei, and to do so, they’re working to construct over a hundred micro libraries within the city. Their plan involves selecting and leasing publications to various businesses looking to provide reading material for customers; this would in return reduce time, cost, and inventory build up for the business owners. Their ambitious vision is for Boven to be found in every part of Taiwan and allow the country itself to be known as the world’s biggest magazine library.