Saying hello to my book at the Singapore National Library

The Central Public Library building at 100 Victoria Street is an impressive-looking modern building that I frequently frequented during pre-pandemic times. The previous central library was located on Stamford Road but it was demolished in 2004.

I remember feeling sad and disappointed when the news broke in 2000, because the red-bricked Stamford Road building held so many memories of my school-going days. Rubbing salt into the wound was the fact that it had to make way for a tunnel to allow for smoother traffic.

Geez, of all things, a soul-less and totally forgettable tunnel.

And many Singaporeans clearly felt the same way, judging from the hoohah that surrounded the announcement. But despite the public outcry, it was still torn down, and another historic building filled with fond memories had to make way for (supposed) economic progress.

Don’t get me wrong. I still think that the Singapore library system is wonderful and a great use of taxpayer dollars, even though a small piece of its soul is now lost forever, with only the consolation of a token commemorative wall using 5,000 red bricks from the old building.

It’s been more than a year since I last stepped into the central library, but since I was in the vicinity after lunch at Tanoke, I thought it’d be nice to pop by and pay a visit to my book.

I fired up the NLB mobile app on my Android phone and found its address at Level 11 Shelf 34 English 915.204 LEE -[TRA]. It was labeled “For Reference Only” and therefore couldn’t be checked out from the library.

I did the mandatory SafeEntry thing, made my way up to the 11th floor, cleared the friendly security uncle and walked into the spacious lobby area.

Before searching for my book, I decided to take a stroll around the floor and headed to the reading tables where I used to hang out. I was surprised to see how crowded they were, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been, because most restrictions had been lifted and the space was really conducive for studying.

It was bright and airy, with a high ceiling, natural lighting, good air-conditioning, free Wifi and most importantly, nice and quiet. Perhaps it was time to start thinking about coming back to my old stomping grounds with my laptop and a book. Time limits were still in place during the weekends, but restrictions had been lifted for weekdays.

I strolled down the long aisle until I reached Shelf 34 and proceeded to narrow down the search until I saw the tag [915.113 – 915.69] on the bottom-most shelf of the rack. Because my book was less than 100 pages, there wasn’t space to print anything on the spine, which made spotting it among all the other books slightly challenging.

After playing a very short game of Where’s Wally, I managed to find it and fish it out. (Note to self: Make sure that the next book I write has at least 100 pages. Anything less feels like a fancy booklet instead of a proper book.)

Writing and publishing a book had always been on my bucket list, and I never really got down to doing it. But ever since I created this blog in February last year and started posting regularly, I realised that I had quite a lot of content that could be re-packaged into a short book.

After checking out the two largest self-publishing platforms — Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and IngramSpark — I chose the former as it seemed easier to setup and didn’t charge any upfront fees.

If I had wanted a hardcover, I would have had to choose IngramSpark by default, since KDP only offered paperback and eBook formats. But for my very first book, a hardcover would have been overkill and so I settled for just a paperback and accompanying Kindle eBook.

All I had to do was to choose a book size (9 x 6 inch), download the appropriate manuscript template in Microsoft Word format, populate it with text (and photos) and upload it to their platform. Once I had the paperback sorted out, I converted it to PDF and used the Kindle Create software (also provided by KDP) to generate a Kindle-format eBook file for upload.

The guides and videos published by Amazon on their KDP University website were a great help, and while I had to iterate through a few rounds of revisions to fix layout issues and typo errors, the entire process was relatively quick and painless.

In less than a month, from start to finish, I managed to get my blog posts on our trip to Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto in autumn 2018 published on Amazon, and available for sale on their platform internationally.

Because I had added the Expanded Distribution option on KDP, the book was available on the global Ingram network that bookstores and libraries, including the Singapore NLB, procure from. And that’s how my paperback ended up sitting on the shelf at 100 Victoria Street.

Of course, I had to buy the book (at a discounted author price) and share it with family and friends. I still have several copies sitting on my home bookshelf, but even though it was the exact same book, it felt totally different picking it up from a library shelf, with all the labels, barcodes and RFID tags.

Somehow, it turned a hobby project into something that felt serious and official, to me at least. While actual sales on Amazon have been negligible, I was surprised to see buyers from the US, Japan, France and Singapore.

A shoutout to SL and JM — thank you for buying the very first copy of the first edition of my first book! Your support is much appreciated.

I have a few ideas for my next couple of books and hope to publish regularly. If you’re curious what they are, stay tuned to the “Books” page of this website. There’s currently only the one, but I deliberately used the plural form to constantly remind myself that it shouldn’t stay that way for too long.

And if you’re interested to read my current book, you know where to find it at the Central Public Library. If you like it after you read it, you might want to buy your very own copy to keep as a souvenir. The Amazon links to the paperback and eBook are given below.

Eleven days in Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto

The world has changed forever due to*hint hint* that-which-must-not-be-named and international travel is on an indefinite pause. There are many countries we want to visit again and Japan is definitely among the top choices.

In the meantime, as we remain grounded in Singapore, we can look back and remember the wonderful time we had in our eleven days in Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto during the autumn of 2018, two years and a lifetime ago.


Lastly, to the Singapore NLB, thank you for actually procuring a copy of my paperback and placing it on your shelves.

Perhaps you might want to buy a few more copies and make them available in general lending? I’ve been told that it’s a pretty good read. *hint hint*

(Note: This visit was made in April, before “Phase 1.5” restrictions came into effect on 16 May)

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