Photo of USTDC courtesy of Les Duffin

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Books and Tapes

Taipei in the 1970s was a great place to buy books and cassettes. For the benefit of those under 30, cassettes were sort of like MP3 tunes, but they had a very long strip of magnetic tape that was round around two spindles and encased in plastic. You just ran them over your tongue and you could hear music. Okay, I'm kidding about the tongue part.

Anyway, you could buy copies of just about any book, including current best sellers, for a small fraction of their price in the States. The important word here is copies. These looked very much like the originals, including dust covers. The print quality was pretty good, as was the binding. However, if the book happened to contain photographs, they looked pretty much like any photo that you duplicate on a copy machine. You can see what the image is, but that's about all you can say about it.

Cassettes were about the same, though the sound was never quite as good as the originals. Of course when you're talking about the sound quality of cassettes, even the originals weren't all that great to begin with.

There was a great bookstore very close to the HSA compound, and I was a regular customer there. I remember buying The Exorcist the first time I was in the place, on the recommendation of the guy at the desk. Scariest book I ever read, by the way.

I gave it to my good friend Larry, another Air Force type who lived next door to me at the hostel. The next morning, as we were walking to TDC, I asked if he'd had a chance to read any of it. He said, "Yeah, I read a few chapters, then set the book up on the headboard and tried to go to sleep. But I kept hearing all these strange noises so I got up and put it on the table across the room!" It was that kind of book.

The rule on these "copies" was that we were allowed to bring one of each back to the States with us, but no more than that. In other words, you couldn't buy 50 copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica and take them home with you, but you could take one set home. Same for cassettes.

I doubt that there's as much piracy going on in Taiwan today. I was in Korea a few times on business a few years ago and things were pretty much the same there, except that it was mostly computer software.


Anonymous said...

I remember the Book Store, but the store I used was across Chung Shan N. Road, next door to to the Catholic Church. I still have the Joy of Cooking Book I purchased in 1967. The book is in pieces, but I still use it today. I remember when the movers came to my apartment to pack us for return to CONUS, the inspector asked about any books we had purchased. It seems he asked about other items, but I don't remember which other items were "no no's" for shipping.

Anonymous said...

The bookstore was "Caves". It may shock you to learn that it is still there! Over the last 40 years they've maintained a few sites on Chung Shan Bei Lu and Lin Sen Bei Lu but they are now back in that original location. The area is dominated now by wedding shops and is a popular meeting area for the Filipino population who use the Catholic church as a focal point.

Don said...

Nice to hear that some things are as they were back in the day. Well, sort of anyway.

I don't suppose the Linkou Club Annex is still across the street, is it? (joke)

Bill R said...

Many memories of ustdc and Taipei. I was there Feb 67 - May 68. Lived in the old cement barracks of Signal Compound. My houseboys were Ting and Jimmy. Would like to email anyone that was there at the same time. I was a Navy Radioman. Have many super8 movies of that time. No projector. Need to convert them. Also many 35mm slides, now getting moldy.

Don said...

Bill, if you don't have a convenient way of converting your slides to graphics files, please contact me at: Depending on how many you have, I may be able to help. I can't do much on the Super 8s though. I paid to have mine converted to DVD a couple of years ago.