Exploring Burma’s Bookshops: Sarpay Beikmann

There seems to be uncertainty as to when the Sarpay Beikman bookshop began. As the book-selling arm of the Burma Translation Society which was renamed to Sarpay Beikmann (House of Literature) either somewhere between 1954 and 1962, it has always been owned by the state …

whether that be the U Nu parliamentary democracy state, the Ne Win socialist regime, the Than Shwe military regime, the Thein Sein transitional state or the as yet to be coined NLD era. The shop is currently under the supervision of the Myanmar Printing and Publishing Enterprise which is under control of the Ministry of Information, headed by Dr U Pe Myint, a former short story writer and journalist himself.

It occupies an enviable site, on the ground floor of the Sarpay Beikmann building and boasts of being the most profitable bookshop in Myanmar.  They claim to have over 500 customers  and can sell over 800 books in a single day which for a stand-alone shop is certainly a lot, though I suspect their profitability comes less from their customers and more from the state benefits.  As far as I know they dont pay rent as the building is owned by the M.O.I.  As the official retailer for MPPE books they can take advantage of the 8 printing facilities operated by the MPPE (1 in Naypitaw, 1 in Mandalay and 5 in Yangon) resulting in cheaper books.

As for the actual store, there is little in the way of English language titles by Burmese writers.  One or two may be found, but they will almost always be seen in other shops.

Address: Sarpay Beikmann Building, Merchant Road, Yangon