Book Design Shop is a specialty design bookstore in Beijing that was founded by Taiwanese entrepreneur, Tony Li. The shop has its own courtyard and is located in Dashilar, near Qianmen off Yangmeizhu Xiejie, in a small hutong. It carries a wide selection of books that would appeal to both avid readers and design aficionados alike. The shop’s carefully curated selection of publications from both Chinese and international authors showcases a wide range of material, from creative editorials to thought-provoking design books. From time to time, the store also turns into an exhibition space that promotes the creative work of illustrators, photographers, and other independent artists. Tony encourages artists to publish their own work and having it available to be purchased through his shop.
In today’s busy world, oversaturated with an endless stream of images and text from social media, being able to produce quality content is of utmost importance. Tony, who also previously worked in media, believes, “Many people still consider the book to be the most ideal way for receiving and disseminating information, especially among professionals. A book is an amazing gateway – the content of every book is a world in itself.” He hopes that his store can become a select shop for books.
今天的社交网络充斥着各种图片和文字，所以当下的出版物更注重用心、独特的编辑。“书的形态，在很多人，特别是专业者的心目中，还是最理想的载体。” Tony，这位曾经的媒体人说，“书籍是个很好的窗口，每个书籍的内容都是一个世界。”正所谓“一书一世界”，他要做的是一个书的select shop。
With a background in architecture, Tony used to work for GQ Taiwan along with various lifestyle magazines. He had experienced the turbulent times for lifestyle magazines in the early 2000s, as well as the impact of internet media affecting printed publications following the financial crisis. Having been through these uncertain times, Tony’s passion for lifestyle, design, and printed publications still remains unchanged. Shortly after relocating to Beijing in 2010, he founded a social app targeting readers. He also worked on branding it as well as creating content specifically for iPad users. He found that he was fascinated by the role of the medium that information is delivered through.
“As magazine editors, by introducing the subjects through writing and photos, aren’t we really just recommending things we like? Whether it be a person, an event, or a city. If we remove ourselves, then this person, event, or item will still possess a certain relationship with the reader. Items are unable to interact and communicate with potential users so by this logic we are just the middleman. There are a lot of products, magazines, and books out there, so the purpose of Book Design Shop is just to serve as a medium.”
Canadian philosopher McLuhan coined a very famous phrase, “The medium is the message”. Tony truly believes in and lives by this quote. In his eyes, books are a gateway, and the contents of every book is a world in itself. He believes that all people and things are also mediums and this is why his shop carries well-designed household products. He later expanded on that idea by creating an online shop that he named Goods & Media (or Wujie in Chinese). The first Chinese character “Wu” represents item, and “Jie” represents medium. Tony chooses the products to feature on the website based on his own criteria: the design quality, content quality, and if it has a “soul”.
Tony is elated about the fact that the connections between people and publishing companies, as well as between one another, are now more closely knit than ever. “I have known the author of Design Tokyo for quite a while. I feel like his work is finally starting to become different from before. There was one that I particularly liked and I asked him if he wanted to have it up for purchase in my store. Also because of this book, I developed a closer relationship with my importer. This store has a good working relationship with all the creators of the books that we carry. The connection that I have with the authors of these books is what separates us from any other bookstore out there.” Tony even photographs and writes the descriptions for all of the items that are sold online; every single magazine, book, and product has been personalised by Tony.
When asked about the future, he says that as a business owner there are always unexpected problems that may arise. If in five years, the store still remains, it will mostly have an online presence and the physical storefront will become more of a showroom. Not long ago the co-founder of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia, also visited Book Design Shop. Tony is particularly proud of that visit from Joe. “He purchased a lot of independent publications, some published out of China, some from Japan. He said that he didn’t ever want to leave my shop. Joe Gebbia’s own Twitter bio reads ‘I design things’. so I felt he really was passionate about everything he purchased.” Through Tony’s interpretation, the design that Joe Gebbia mentions and Tony’s own ideas about things being a medium are interconnected. “The definition of ‘design’ is actually quite broad. It involves trying to find order in this vast world of ours.” This is also what Tony strives to do as an ardent observer of life.
问及未来，Tony说，做生意常常会出现规划外的事情，如果5年后，这间店还在的话，会在网络上为主，而线下则作为showroom的形态存在。前段时间Airbnb的创始人之一Joe Gebbia也曾造访过书的设计店，这让Tony颇感自豪。Tony说: “他买了一大堆独立出版。有中国的，有日本的。还包括一些小物件。他说这个店他都不想离开。Joe Gebbia的Twitter页面上写着‘I design things’（我设计东西），他真的是喜欢这些东西。”Tony的理解中，Joe Gebbia所说的“设计”和他所说的媒介的概念是相近的，“这个‘设计’的概念是非常广泛的，都是在一个很大的世界里中去找到一个逻辑系统。”而这也是Tony作为一位生活观察者会一直努力去做的事。
No. 23, Yangmeizhu Xiejie, Dashilar
Xicheng District, Beijing
People’s Republic of China
+86 010 8319 7844
Contributors: Banny Wang, Eric Zhang
Photographer: Banny Wang