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Bookmakers of Tecoma Street

The Bookmakers of Tecoma Street refers to a number of "traditional" book makers located along said street in the Muddy Estuary. They are an establishment that is seen to be going out of touch with incoming trends of both the natural, supernatural, and human worlds, as some sneer at their dedication to tradition. This view is not unfounded, for the current digitalisation trends in both the human and supernatural world has seen drastic decline in sales of the Bookmakers in recent years.  

Tecoma Street

  Despite its name, Tecoma Street usually refers less to the actual street and more of a general area that houses a number of businesses associated with Jabatan Sihir and other supernatural entities and personas. Regular civilians and supernatural citizens alike throng the area, as despite its reputation as a "ghaib" or haunted location, Tecoma Street goods are often priced well for quality they offer.   In the early 1900s when the Muddy Estuary was founded, Tecoma Street existed mainly as a long street located in one of the more uphill areas of the new town. Despite the glitz and pomp from the malls that dot the Starry Hills behind it now, much of the shops in Tecoma Street look essentially unchanged from the last wave of modernisation back in the 1970s when most of the wooden houses were upgraded to sturdy 2- and 3-floor shophouses. It houses some of the best foods to be found in this part of the city, serving quality low cost meals for the many retail staff and office workers of Starry Hills.  

Bookmakers of Tecoma Street

  Tecoma Street was nicknamed Pencil Street before the 1970s facelift, as it was the centre of a stationery boom that began with the introduction of mandatory education. Most of the original inhabitants were out of work miners living on the third floor. They were recruited as manual labourers by savvy businesspeople from the second floor, who set them to work assembling pencils and later on, books. It was the sight of these miners sitting under the large trees gluing pencils and sewing books that gave rise to the name Bookmakers, even though technically what they were doing were closer to bookbinding.   These bookmakers were often called upon to create custom notebooks on the spot, which they would oblige depending on the materials requested by the customer. Some bookmakers could take as little as 40 minutes to bind a book while more elaborate books could take as long as two weeks. In many cases, customers would often present a book that had its pages all ordered, awaiting stitches, glue and cover. Many of the bookmakers were illiterate, and they were often the most popular simply because their customers could be assured that the books were unlikely to be copied by rivals or accidents could be prevented.   As time passed and the street was renovated over and over again to create more shoplots and houses, more book stores began moving their bookmaking processes inside, out of the sight of passing pedestrians. With the 1970s facelift and new business regulations, almost all bookmakers moved their production outside of the city centre, reasoning that it made more sense to dedicate a larger shop floor with the increase of customers. By the 1980s, most stores had only two or three bookmakers who worked on the premises. By the late 1990s, there was only one store, Ahmad Book Company, 1920, that had a bookmaker on its premises, and their bookmakers were rotated out regularly.  

Dying art?

  Bookmakers were often paid by the number of pages or pencils they had assembled. This meant they were prized for speed and efficiency, which made it a high-volume, low-paying position. Even with the introduction of machinery in the early 1980s, most traditional book companies still preferred to hire human bookmakers due to their ability to handle different materials and customer judgement. However, by the mid 1990s, the shift away from human bookmakers had begun.   There were several reasons for this:
  • Most bookmakers were themselves leaving the business, having been able to provide for their children and families till the former was able to attain higher education than themselves
  • Mandatory education was now required up until the secondary level, which meant a drastic increase in exercise books and disposable notebooks demand that was met by improved machinery, not human output
  • Machine assembled paper talisman notebooks and bloodproof papers had reached a level that most mortal bookmakers could not achieve
  Coupled with the long hours, backbreaking work and low pay, most bookmakers decided to leave the industry completely. Some bookmakers attached to the older book companies eventually upskilled into consultancy or expert roles, providing advice on handling different materials instead of assembling it themselves.

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