It was a long holiday. My husband and I didn’t have any plan to go somewhere fun, because we had some writing jobs. So we just researched, wrote, at home. Unfortunately, you can’t always do the research online. Thus, we also had to hunt some necessary books. We went to several big bookstores in Surabaya: Gramedia, Toga Mas, Rumah Buku, and Uranus, with no result. Well, I guessed it’s time to go to Kampoeng Ilmu!
When I lived in Bandung, I used to hunt for the old books in Palasari, Dewi Sartika or Cicadas. We can get the old books with the good price.
Here in Surabaya, such heaven lies at Semarang Street, in Kampoeng Ilmu area. There, people sell popular books, comics, textbooks, dictionaries, novels, magazines, new and second hand, in some cheap ranges. That’s why we call it Kampoeng Ilmu, literary means kampong of knowledge. Kampoeng Ilmu was established in 2008 to localize the book sellers along Semarang Street, Surabaya. It lays on 6,000 square meters area.
When we arrived in not so morning (at 10am I think), Kampoeng Ilmu was really quiet. Many bookstores were still closed. Of course, it was Lebaran! A long holiday for Indonesian people. There is a beautiful garden with two pools of gold fish and freshwater catfish. Unfortunately, it wasn’t maintained well.
My husband searched the books we need, while I sat on marquee’s floor. Oh, did I mentioned that Kampoeng Ilmu has an exotic marquee in the front yard? I guess this room is for visitors to rest, to read the books, to discuss, or to enjoy the foods and beverages from the canteen beside. So, I sat comfortably on marquee’s floor. But I couldn’t stay any longer. I felt the fresh air, but I also smelled something like cat’s feces. Yikes!
I moved to the library on the second floor. From there, I saw that Kampoeng Ilmu is next door to a cemetery (whaat??). And you know, a smell of urine hit my nose near the library. I also found rubbish and the mop in a watered-bucket. So messy! So stinky! Okay, it was still in holidays, so the janitors might not do their jobs. But no matter the excuse, it’s a homework for Kampoeng Ilmu’s managers to make the visitors comfortable.
But how about the core products? It’s dusty, of course. We didn’t mind the dusty books, because they are second-hand book stores. It’s forgivable. But the books, from a stand to a stand there, were quite monotone. Not as various as I had imagined. Few days before, we listed the books about Mr. X. There are about six books which published in 2005-2009.
“Do you have any book about Mr. X?” my husband asked a seller in a stand.
“No,” she replied. “But I have a book of Mr. C.” The girl than showed us the book. But it’s a popular book that, if we want, we can easily buy in every bookstores out there. So, we searched the books about Mr. X ourselves in the stand. But it was really no such titles there.
We walked away. Asked the other seller. The same answer. We searched it ourselves as well. Nothing. The process repeated.
Thus, like we usually do when searching something in Google and get no satisfied result, we enlarge the search, “Do you have some politic books?”
Too bad. Their answers were still no.
I’d like to suggest the managers or sellers to focus on Kampoeng Ilmu’s differentiation: place of second-hand books. So don’t bother to sell the actual trending books. But I know, the sellers always want to profit, so we cannot prevent them to sell the hot items. It’s a market mechanism, anyway.
However, it’s good to enrich their collections with “exotic” books, so Kampoeng Ilmu will be a perfect destination of book hunters and collectors all over Indonesia. My expectation is not too high, isn’t it?
But in near future, next time I visit, I really wish Kampoeng Ilmu is becoming a better place for people to do the tour of books. More comfortable, beautiful, and various books. Hopefully. [photos by Rie]