Bookshops: to be or not to be?


In this era of digital virtual world, are brick-and-mortar bookshops passé? While some would say ‘yes,’ others would say ‘no.’ Every book lover knows the ecstatic feeling they get when they visit a bookshop – neatly lined up books, each clamouring for attention. One really goes into the wonderland, thinking not what to buy but what to leave behind. The smell of the printed books, the touch and feel of the book – all connect you to the printed world. This feeling is unmatchable.

On the contrary, while ordering books online gives you the comfort of your home, you actually miss out on the lesser known but wonderful books. Most likely, people pick up bestsellers or a particular book someone has recommended. Other books do not get the kind of attention they deserve. While it is a good move to order books, when you are pressed for time, it cannot substitute for a physical bookshop. In fact, people are now heading towards these bookstores more often.

But, the sad news of bookshops winding up operations always sends gloomy signals across the industry. The news of New Delhi based Fact & Fiction planning to shut shops this month, was indeed not a good news for the booklovers and the owner alike.

On the other hand, it is heartening to hear new bookshops opening up. Sapna Book House and Oxford Bookstores have both added new bookshops. More recently, Variety Book Depot has opened up a sprawling new showroom in the busy street of Daryaganj, the hub of publishing industry in north India. With 11,000 titles on display, that too only in the trade books, the store is trying to make its mark. This clearly shows that bookshops are not passé.

In fact, some bookshops have folded up because the next generation is either not keen on taking this business forward or the rental values of the property have gone up significantly high, making it unviable to run a bookshop. Besides, the decreasing profit margins are also another important reason for the shut down. All in all, it is not the industry that is going the downhill, it is individual preference that has taken the upper hand.

Look at the indigenous or any international book fairs, you are bound to find book lovers thronging to such places to pick up books of their choice, though they can very well choose to buy books through online channels. This month, we have two book fairs to look forward to – the Beijing International Book Fair and the Delhi Book Fair.

Come, let’s celebrate the world of books!

SK Khurana

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