MPH Bookstores is a chain of bookstores that has gained considerable recognition in Singapore. This bookstore retail chain specialises in selling a large variety of books, comics and stationeries.
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I visited MPH yesterday to get a Christmas present for a friend and although the bookstore has a relatively wide range of books, I was slightly - and rather unreasonably - disappointed, having been to the ultra-huge Kinokuniya bookstore just the week before.
However, the books available were sufficient and I was able to find a suitable book for my friend pretty quickly. This was also due to how organised the shelves were - everything was categorised nicely. However, the categorisation was not as detailed as that of the Kinokuniya bookstore (ie. In Kinokuniya, they further categorise their books under "biographies" into smaller categories; in MPH it was just "biographies")
Overall, it's a decent bookstore to visit but there is no guarantee that you will find the book you want in the store. If I had a specific book to look for, I'd probably go to Kinokuniya because there's a higher chance of that book being available. I wouldn't mind going to MPH if I'm just going to browse or look for a gift though.
Average at Best
Strangely enough, I do not find many MPH bookstores in Singapore, especially in the Orchard area. Personally, I would rank MPH to be better than the Popular chain of bookstores, but not as classy as Kinokuniya. MPH offers a wider range of books and stationery but if you are an avid book lover and want to read slightly more unconventional books, I would recommend Kinokuniya over MPH.
Price-wise, I think their books are priced reasonably and they sometimes have very good discounts and offers if you can catch them! Just recently, I managed to get 2 classics at a buy 1 get 1 free offer which made me really happy because classics can sometimes be priced up to $30+. However, I think their staff are not very well-versed in the book titles that they carry because they always seem to be quite lost. The good part though is that they are ever willing to try looking for what you want, and to extend a helping hand.
In conclusion, because MPH feels like a very low to mid-range type of bookstore, it is not the kind of place that one can linger for long. The rather sparse selection of books also is not very appealing. Hence, unless MPH has some special offer or exclusive book offering going on, I think Kinokuniya would be a better option.
My Second Home
Being the Avid book reader that I am, I remember this place as my "second home". To be honest, the smell of new, mint books welcomes me: I love the musky smell. When I was a little kid, my mother would bring me along with her to her appointments and drop me off at an MPH book store where I would sit at the corner looking for books and reading them while she went on to do her errands.
Today, this place has become my one-stop book shop to purchase books. Not only do they have outlets all over Singapore, the staff members are also friendly. However, while MPH can satisfy my reading needs for the more popular reads, the more obscure books are usually sought through Kinokuniya.
Entrancing power of books
When I was younger, my father would bring the family to East Coast to jog. Then, we would proceed to Parkway to have our meal and shop for some stuff. We had been going there for so long I don't even know when MPH closed and made way for Borders, especially because it is back now at Parkway. Truth be told, I could never tell the difference between the two. I loved to browse all the types of books, especially the magazines there.
MPH has always been superior to Popular, and has wide collections of books, movies and such. I could spend so much time looking through the MPH at Parkway, and would moan when I was told that I had to leave. It really entranced me how huge the collection is, although the fact that these bookstores are dying out in Singapore is distressing me. Bring back the former glory of MPH! In fact, I would not mind even if MPH replaced Popular.
Wide book selection.
MPH definitely has one of the largest selection of books I have ever seen. They've got almost everything, from classics to popular fiction to manuals. If I'm ever looking for a specific book, the probability of finding it in MPH is far higher than any other bookstore I've patronised thus far. The stationery they stock is also of good quality, but they can also get a little pricey ($2.50 for a gel pen, anyone?)
The only problem I have with the store is that it can get crowded and very messy during festive sales, like the Christmas Sale. There are so many people browsing the books that you have to squeeze in tiny gaps between people and grab a book from the massive jumbled heap of genres on display. If the displays were a little more categorised and aesthetically appealing during crowd surges, I think this would be my idea of a perfect bookstore.
When I learnt that one of the CD shops that I used to frequent at Parkway Parade had closed down in favour of opening up a new MPH, I was overcome with a sense of righteous indignation and sorrow at the loss of a perfectly good CD shop! However, as a avid book-reader and book shop-frequenter, I will attempt to quell my sorrow to give my most honest review of this new (or old?) bookstore.
The MPH at Parkway is of a decent size, however the range of books is quite scarce. I was unable to find the Harry Potter series nor The Fault in Our Stars, both of which are considered more "mainstream" books, though there is also the possibility that I might have not looked hard enough.
For a passing reader, who is mainly just searching for a decent read, MPH probably does offer a wide enough range to satisfy most genres, such as crime novels and fantasy trilogies. In fact, I was pleased to find there was an entire section dedicated to the Classics, such as Jane Eyre (which I purchased a copy of) and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer etc. However, it is near to impossible to find certain books which may be a less "mainstream" choice or was published a few years back. That aside, the economical value of the books were acceptable and was roughly about the same as other major bookstores such Kinokuniya or Popular.
All in all, MPH can be considered a decent bookstore, however for more 'hard-core' readers, such as myself, with a burning passion for books, I would suggest giving this store a miss, given that their prices were about the same, bookstores like Kinokuniya offers a much wider and diverse range within the same price bracket.
The bookstore of my childhood
I have this nostalgic fondness for MPH, especially since I used to visit the bookstore every other week, it being located a mere 5 minutes' walk away from my grandmother's house. I used to love the lush cushioned seats that were placed throughout the store and I'd simply grab a book and sit down while I finished it within a few hours while my parents shopped - clearly everyone else thought so, and MPH closed down over at Parkway several years ago.
Fast forward a decade or so (I'm not entirely sure, but that phrase certainly makes me seem very old doesn't it), MPH has returned to Parkway Parade! Albeit in an entirely different location and much more scaled down. It certainly doesn't have the magical aura that I used to view it with as a kid, but I'd say MPH finally smartened up - they started wrapping up more of their books, and the small confines of their current store has made it quite impossible for anyone to have a seat while they read.
However, they still offer a wide range of books and magazines. The variety has definitely shrunk in size in relative comparison to the former store, but MPH still retails books that probably cannot be found in the likes of Popular.
If you're an Eastie like myself, trust me - MPH is probably the best bookstore you'll find in the region.
Disclaimer: Personal bias involved
I frequented MPH as a child - maybe that's why I'll probably always have a soft spot for it.
I remember being absolutely devastated when the branch at Parkway Parade ceased operating (although Borders moving in did do something to alleviate my misery). I would go to MPH to browse through the selection of books after tuition, while waiting for my mother to come pick me up. Of course I would never buy anything - on hindsight, maybe that's why they had to move out - they had a severe freeloader problem. The thought of MPH shutting down was simply terrifying (What do I do now?! Where do I go after tuition?!) to my young, childish mind.
Since then, MPH has moved back into Parkway, although not back into its former spot where Uniqlo currently stands. Located in an area with less human traffic and surrounded by food stores on all sides, MPH retains little of its former glory. It has also shrunk in size and does not boast as diverse a selection of books. Despite all this though, I still patronize it, perhaps to relive my childhood days, perhaps because there really aren't that many other bookstores around anymore.
In the shadow of the most popular brand name bookstore in Singapore, which co-incidentally happens to be named POPULAR, lies a series of auxillary bookstores such as MPH bookstores or HARRIS that while connected to the flagship brand, is not easily recognised by any typical Singaporean you ask on the street.
The reason, from my perspective as a customer and book lover, gives rise to a few points. The pull factor is lacking in MPH bookstores. After all, on display are items you mostly expect from a bookstore. A collection of novels that is not sufficiently big enough to attract crowds like Kinokuniya does as well as standard gifts and stationery comparable to a typical gift shop.Thus, overall, it lacks the additional carrot to entice customers and hence is unable to climb as a brand name.
However, one good thing I like about MPH Bookstores is that you can reliable find one nesting in a cosy corner where you least expect it in parts of town, leading to an enjoyable half hour or so spent on browsing books and magazines.
All in all, a pleasant place if you don't expect a lot out of everything, including books you read. Simple fare for the simple soul indeed!