This is an updated version of a post written by our writer Suet Fun on August 3, 2017. We’ve updated this list with additional publishers and bookstores.
Feeling adventurous in your pursuit of reading? Our independent publishers and bookstores are here to deliver a varied range of literature to liven up your bookshelf.
Independent (or more commonly known as ‘indie’) publishers and bookstores operate on a smaller capacity and are more receptive or even encouraging towards experimental writing, as opposed to large-scale, mass-producing commercial publishers that churn out popular mainstream titles. Notwithstanding their niche nature, independent publishers and bookstores are ideal alternatives to broaden your reading horizons.
Here are several independent publishers and bookstores to look out for on your next book hunt!
Pssst! Click on their names to go to their respective webpages!
Initiated by local filmmaker Amir Muhammad, Buku Fixi highlights urban, contemporary Malaysian writing and is supported by its imprint, Matahari Books. Besides supplying titles from its in-house subsidiary labels, such as Fixi Novo and Fixi Verso, it also stocks titles from other independent publishers.
Buku Fixi publishes fiction and non-fiction works in both English and Bahasa Malaysia and is known for its ‘KL Noir’ anthology series, featuring writings that delve into crime, corruption and other unsettling, gruesome atrocities that manifest in the dark underbelly of Kuala Lumpur. From time to time, it also solicits contributions from emerging and experienced writers alike to be compiled into anthologies, such as ‘Little Basket: New Malaysian Writing’.
Located in the historic city of Georgetown, Penang, Gerakbudaya is committed to offering an extensive, diverse range of titles for the inquisitive reader. Lining its bookshelves are books about Penang, history, culture and politics as well as contemporary fiction and poetry.
Established in 2014, Gerakbudaya stems from an amalgamation of the Bahasa Malaysia terms ‘gerak’ (move) and ‘budaya’ (culture), aligning with its aim to stimulate and mobilise fresh, radical ideas and new forms of cultural engagement among the community.
At Gerakbudaya, readers are able to choose from books with a local focus, such as ‘101 Stories of Old Penang’ and ‘An Introduction to Selected Instrumental Ensembles and Folk Songs of East Malaysia’, to contemporary classics, such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘1984’.
Occasionally, it ventures beyond the confines of its outlet in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling to conduct temporary bookstalls at various festivals happening across Penang, such as the George Town Literary Festival and the George Town Festival.
Silverfish Books is an active advocate of the local writing scene since its establishment in 1999. It currently operates from a cosy, welcoming brick-and-mortar bookstore situated within Bangsar Village 2.
Focusing on literature, philosophy and Malaysian Literature in English, its varied selection of titles encompasses both fiction and non-fiction genres, including academic publications and the annual Malaysia Human Rights Report by Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM). Find reading too tedious a task? E-book versions of several of its titles are available as well.
It publishes the Silverfish New Writing series – volumes of anthologies showcasing outstanding, original new writing by emerging writers from Malaysia and our neighbouring countries. It also invests its efforts into nurturing potential wordsmiths by organising a writing programme for aspiring writers. Good news for budding writers: it also accepts manuscript submissions to be considered for publication!
For more light-hearted reads, Maplé Comics (pronounced Ma-phley) offers comics with local relevance that effortlessly strike a chord with Malaysians.
Started by friends and comic enthusiasts, Amir Hafizi and Fairul Nizam in 2013, it strives to publish and promote comics that embody an engaging storyline and a distinctive identity. Its publications include Komik Ronyok, a comic that has been making its rounds on social media for its irreverent, twisted humour.
Its dedication to and enthusiasm for comics are evident on its Facebook page, whereby its co-founders post weekly insights and musings of the background and contextual information of selected comics.
Founded in 2011, Moka Mocha Ink is a small-scale publisher that publishes its own range of novels, poetry and short story anthologies by local writers.
Furthermore, its imprint, Rorschach Ink, produces literary and photography zines – compact booklets with a minimalist sensibility, inscribed with literary works by local contributors. Among its series of zines are ‘Kerja Tangan’ and ‘Etsetera’.
One of its co-founders, Ridhwan Saidi is involved in theatre, leading it to venture into stage territory. Ridhwan’s efforts culminated in the production of Teater Modular, which comprises of experimental assemblages of segmented ‘playlets’ or mini plays.
Based in SS15, Subang Jaya, Lejen Press aims to provide opportunities for emerging writers to develop their writing talent. Its titles are available on its online store, as well as at its SS15 headquarters and the I AM LEJEN Shop in Terminal Subang Skypark.
Besides committing to print publications, it has expanded its portfolio to include two subsidiaries, namely Lejen Komik and Lejen Stage. Lejen Komik is its comic publishing arm that conceptualises comics based on in-house novels, while Lejen Stage is responsible for overseeing theatre adaptations of Lejen Press’ publications.
It also collaborates with fellow indie publisher, Buku Fixi in the ‘Jelajah Lejen Fixi’ initiative to extend its outreach to a wider readership by travelling to local university campuses and various events across Malaysia to introduce its publications.
Nestled in the heart of Kuala Lumpur near Petaling Street, Moontree House is a concept café that houses a specialty bookstore with an inclination towards literature on feminism and gender studies, in addition to general literature by female writers.
Despite its feminist leanings, a cursory browse of its bookshelves reveals an inclusive treasure trove of fascinating titles in literary theory, film, philosophy, general fiction and literature in translation, among others. A majority of the books are in Chinese, but numerous English titles are also on offer, including ‘Them Horrors Be Everywhere’ by Julya Oui, ‘Seeing Like A Feminist’ by Nivedita Menon and ‘Taboo: Poems’ by spoken word poet Melizarani T. Selva.
True to its roots as a concept café, Moontree House serves a delectable selection of beverages, light meals and cakes, creating a leisurely atmosphere for bibliophiles seeking an urban retreat. Besides that, it also serves as a marketplace for local artists to exhibit and trade handmade handicrafts and provisions.
Founded in 1998 by Chong Ton Sin (or more fondly known as Pak Chong) under GB Gerakbudaya Enterprise Sdn. Bhd., Gerakbudaya Bookstore is widely recognised as the preeminent local indie publisher and bookstore.
It is dedicated to the circulation of timely and important books that have the potential to generate informed discussions and fresh perspectives and insights, particularly on the Malaysian socio-cultural landscape.
For those who are interested in politics, history, art, culture, literature and everything else under the sun, its premise in Petaling Jaya is the place to be. It stocks an abundance of titles from various genres and languages to cater to all reading tastes. Furthermore, it also supplies books sourced from independent publishers in Singapore, Indonesia and the wider Southeast Asian region.
Meanwhile, its research imprint, the Strategic Information and Research Development Center (SIRD) focuses on publishing academic literature. It strives to make scholarly titles more accessible to the wider reading public by distributing academic publications in the humanities and social sciences.
Helmed by Leon Ngai and Wendy Chow, Bookalicious! is situated within The Summit Subang USJ and has plenty in store for its customers, from boxed sets to collectables like character figurines, posters and other literature-related merchandise.
Take your pick from a wide range of titles in popular literature, classics, local interests as well as non-fiction at reasonable prices. Tempted by its extensive variety but living too far away from the Subang area? No worries. Just make an online order through its Facebook page and your selected books will be delivered to your doorstep.
Interestingly, it stands out from other bookstores with its adorable mascot, Theodore (or Theo) the cow, accompanied by the equally lovable Mimi the dog. Theo and Mimi are featured on Bookalicious’s social media platforms – do drop by for a glimpse of cuteness (and for the books, of course)!
DuBooks Press is a publisher and bookstore with attitude, as implied by its tagline ‘Liar dan Angkuh’ (wild and proud). It currently operates from its physical bookstore in Bangi Sentral, Bandar Baru Bangi.
Its abbreviation, DBP is no coincidence. On its website, it cheekily reveals that its choice of the DBP abbreviation is a deliberate play on the Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka, which has an identical abbreviation.
It specialises in Malay titles with an edgy vibe, hence some of its publications are slightly deviant in subject matter than the books often found in mainstream bookstores. Malay translations of notable works from international authors are also available, such as ‘Down and Out di London dan Paris’ (Down and Out in Paris and London), originally by George Orwell. Additionally, its imprint, DuBook Indo imports and distributes books published in Indonesia and publishes materials on Indonesia-related topics.
There are several branches of Jing-si (roughly translated from Chinese as ‘still thoughts’) Books and Café across the Klang Valley, yet they are united in their effort to provide city dwellers with a conducive environment to relax, unwind and read.
This chain of stores is not conventionally indie, but your patronage helps to support its operations as it is managed by the Tzu Chi Foundation, a Buddhist charity and humanitarian organisation.
Fun fact: the stores are staffed by Tzu Chi volunteers!
Each of its stores is steeped in a quiet, serene atmosphere and minimal décor, making it a welcoming, no-frills place for immersive reading. Feel free to bring along your own books, or if you’re feeling curious, browse through the selection of books on humanities, spirituality, health and lifestyle on offer.
Equipped with Wi-Fi connection, it is also an ideal place to work while sipping on a beverage or two. The drinks menu include a selection of coffees, hot and iced teas and other speciality beverages to complement your zen-like reading experience.
BACA is a quaint bookstore located in Temerloh, Pahang that offers an assortment of titles, comprising of rare, vintage books, classic and contemporary literature as well as books on philosophy, architecture and many more. It even has a dedicated manga section!
If you feel peckish while perusing a newfound read amongst BACA’s well-stocked shelves, feel free to order a light bite from its café, which serves cakes, tarts, pastries and other sweet treats. Now both your literary fix and dessert cravings can be satisfied at the same time!
It also organises arts and crafts events and workshops for the local community, with the most recent one being ‘DoodlyDo & Malaysian Stories’, a casual doodling session whereby all are welcome to exchange stories about the Malaysian everyday and meet new people while doodling for fun.
Established in 2013, this Kajang-based bookshop serves as a multi-purpose space to cater to the community in the surrounding areas of Kajang and Hulu Langat.
Besides offering novels, magazines, zines and alternative comics, it occasionally hosts open mic sessions, community gatherings and informal forums on various topics. It also doubles as a restaurant/café, serving substantial meals of rice, fish, meat and vegetable dishes, such as Nasi Campur and Ayam Masak Merah. The dishes of the day depend on a rotating menu which is displayed outside the shop and posted on its Facebook page, so check constantly for updates!
Just be sure not to leave any stains on the books!
Pelita Dhihin specialises in Islamic literature and works by Islamic scholars, yet it also offers a collection of titles in English on philosophy, history and general knowledge. Furthermore, it also stocks Malay translations of significant literature, such as ‘The Origin of Species’ by Charles Darwin.
Apart from its established premise in Bandar Seri Putra, Kajang, it has recently opened another outlet at Petaling Jaya Seksyen 14. Or more conveniently, just visit its online bookstore, Kafilah Buku to browse through its comprehensive selection of literature!
Led by established writer Sharon Bakar (she’s the one in yellow!), Word Works focuses on publishing local titles. Amongst its publications are the ‘Readings from Readings’ anthologies, a series of compilations of original pieces composed and presented by emerging writers at the long-running [email protected] sessions.
For those who do not know, [email protected] is basically a once in a month event held at the Seksan Gallery at Bangsar where budding writers and even seasoned authors get to go up on stage and read their written works for free! It’s a good place to practise stage fright and a great event to get to know other local writers. Unfortunately, due to the quarantine measures, the event is now hosted online.
Word Works also organises creative writing courses for aspiring writers and provides editing and proofreading services. And for her immense effort, Sharon deserves a great big hug.
Run by former journalists, Elaine and Min Hun, Lit Books has become a go to bookstore for those looking for hard to find English literary titles.
The bookstore is home to collector’s editions of classic and contemporary books along with new releases. All of these titles are lovingly handpicked by the couple.
Prior to the quarantine measures, the bookstore used to regularly host acclaimed local and international authors who’ll converse with patrons in the store about their literary works and current issues of the day.
You can also purchase the titles of the books online here.
Think we missed some bookstores? Drop us a comment or send us an email at [email protected]!