Myay Hmone Lwin is a busy man. On top of running his own publishers, NDSP, a bookshop at Pearl Condo, the Yangon Book Plaza in downtown, a nascent translation association and the Irrawaddy Literature Festival he is also the founder of WE Distribution, a book delivery service.
Started in 2016, Myay Hmon Lwin obviously saw a gap in the national market for book access. With very few bookshops outside of Mandalay and Yangon and with a majority rural population, many publishers and writers are confined to selling their books to a minority of readers (despite this, they still manage to sell a similar number of titles as we do in the UK which demonstrates the Burmese well-deserved reputation as a nation of readers).
WE Distribution takes their orders on Facebook messenger (where they have 90,000 followers) and delivers books by bicycle across Yangon and Mandalay. For deliveries to other urban cities and smaller towns and villages the company relies on the Myanmar Post and Telecommunication service, promising, according to this Myanmar Times article, to deliver any book across the country within a week for only 1000 Kyat payable to the postman.
This last point will be the key to WE Distributions success. Credit Cards are still a rarity in Myanmar, as are payment processing systems in shops. Paypal has yet to really work while most bookshops and publishers don’t make their back catalogue available as e-books. By being able to pay in cash for the delivery (and presumably for the book itself), it’s an intermediary service that fills in the technological gap as Myanmar transitions into a 21st Century mode of business.
Image Credit@Zahnur Rofiah