Orchid Press is one of Asia’s longest established small independent book publishers, started by Hallvard Kare Kuloy.
Orchid Books is a sister company of Orchid Books dedicated to publishing exceptionally high quality publications on pan-Asian topics.
Love of Books and Asia
Hallvard (Hal’) Kuloy, born in rural Norway, was a former United Nations executive who had lived and worked for many years in Asia. He was the first UNICEF resident representative of Nepal in the early 1970s. Hal had an obsessive love for books and he was especially fond of books on Asia. The library in his home in Oslo had a vast collection of these books with both Nepal and Burma (now Myanmar) very well represented.
Publishing Enterprises and the White Orchid Press
Kuloy started several publishing enterprises while he was in Asia. ‘Bibliotheca Himalayica’ was one that was dedicated to reprinting rare and out-of-print books. The journal ‘Kailash’ was for Himalayan studies. But Kuloy’s biggest investment was his White Orchid Press which he established in Bangkok, Thailand in 1981. Kuloy chose Bangkok because of its central location and access to high quality printing services. (He later dropped ‘White’ from the company name to avoid confusion with a Bangkok publisher with a similar name.)
Orchid Press Evolution
Kuloy’s initial motivation for creating the publishing company was drawn purely from a love of books and of reading and also from a desire to increase the availability of more high quality material on the Asian region. Later, the Orchid Press evolved somewhat to include a role as a vehicle for expression of his social and political views.
Kuloy was involved for many years in the movement seeking freedom for Aung San Suu Kyi, Mayanmar’s democratically elected leader (and Nobel Peace Prize winner.) Unfortunately, in the late 80s, when Kyi led the democratic forces to electoral success, hundreds of democrats and their student supporters were slaughtered in the streets by the opposition.
Kuloy was profoundly enraged by this act of brutality and spent a large part of his remaining years as an activist in support of his old friend and her objectives. After 1988, Orchid Press became one of the vehicles of this activism. Kuloy and the Orchid Press believed that any efforts to retain the spotlight on Burma, its rich traditions, and the essential civility of its culture in the eyes of the world would help in the Burmese people’s struggle against their military oppressors.
Since the Burmese government continues to do what it does when the world is not paying attention, one of the main objectives of the Orchid Press is to help to maintain the world’s awareness of Burma and the plight of the Burmese. (Kyi has been under house arrest by the current government of Myanmar on and off since 1990 to the present time).
Untimely Death of Kuloy
After the untimely death of Kuloy in 2001, his friend, Chris Frape, also an avid collector of Asian books, bought the company. Today, Orchid Press is a publisher ‘dedicated to continuing Hal Kuloy’s legacy, and to providing readers with affordable high-quality editions of important works on the art, culture, and religions of Asia’.
Orchid Books specializes in books on Asian arts, cultures, history & languages, Asian indigenous books, Asian religions, (particularly Buddhism), China trade books & manuscripts, new & antiquarian books & maps, North & Southeast Asia, and the Himalayas. They buy collections and individual items in their areas of interest.
Orchid Press/Orchid Books is a member of the Independent Online Booksellers Associations (IOBA). The IOBA is dedicated to maintaining and enforcing high ethical and professional standards for member booksellers, including a Code Of Ethics and promotion of trust between customers and booksellers by providing a safe online environment for the purchase and sale of books. To find out more about IOBA visit their website at www.ioba.org.
Unfortunately, the current pandemic has forced the temporary closing of the Thailand Orchid Books Bookstore.
Orchid Press and Orchid Books continue to service customers via the Internet on Biblio.com at Orchid Books - Bangkok, Thailand (biblio.com).
Orchid Books is the only outlet offering all titles in print, not only from Orchid Press, but also from other local presses such as White Lotus Press, SDI, Silkworm Publications and River books.
Orchid Books also offers many other fascinating new, as well as out-of-print, and rare titles on Asian countries, cultures, arts, histories, religions, and other areas of interest from fine publishers worldwide.
Recognizing the rapidly growing importance of electronic editions, Orchid Press has embarked on a program to offer a significant number of publications in electronic form. These will include primarily e-book editions in appropriate formats of Orchid Book’s own published titles, both those now available in printed edition and those no longer in print. Also offered from time to time will be other e-book editions of distributed titles not those published by Orchid Books.
At present there are a multitude of e-book formats used by various sectors of the publishing industry and the number of such formats is still growing. Some are of quite limited application and some others may fall by the wayside in future.
The current plans are to offer all e-book titles in optional EPUB, MOBI and interactive PDF format.
Independent publishers such as Orchid Press foster a diversity of views in society and facilitate the consideration and hearing of minority opinions. They tend, each in their small ways and cumulatively, in a significant way, to counter the worldwide trend toward dominance of all social discussion by corporate giants and powerful political and religious entities. The positive effects of diversity in gene pools are well known. A similar effect is apparent when a diversity of opinions on cultural, social and political issues is able to be offered. Diversity produces a more creative, nuanced, and ultimately stronger society.
Independent publishers have a responsibility (among others) to do their utmost to ensure that they report the truth, to facilitate the expression of diverse opinions, and to ensure that what they publish will not abet or foster the social ills that plague our society. To some these may sound like platitudes, but they are real responsibilities, which all ethical publishers confront daily.
Help Thwart Efforts to Limit Press Freedoms
Attempts to muzzle independent expression of all sorts, including the press are usually a reflection of an administration’s own internal insecurities. Such attempts occur today all over the Middle East. It occurs in the US and it occurs in Thailand.
The extent to which such attempts succeed is directly related to the intellectual maturity of the population they administer. Thailand, and particularly Bangkok, has a well educated and articulate intellectual elite, and these are the people who are thwarting efforts to limit press freedoms.
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