Oxford Bookstore…

Much more than a Bookstore

The Oxford Bookstore Kolkata, began according to most self-styled historians, as a pavement bookstall, nearly a 100 years ago. The realm of myth, too, surrounds the bookstore’s origins, as it does with anything that comes with the legacy of history. From footpath to one of India’s very first completely integrated online – offline bookstore with access to over six million title world wide, Oxford Bookstore continues to be the leading, major bookstore chain in India today.

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What defines the charm of the Bookstore? It is not just the meticulously curated book collections on the shelves, or the outstanding interiors — the walls speak, too, to those who listen to their fascinating story! The tradition of hosting creatively curated events– readings, panel discussions, storytelling workshops, art and photography exhibitions and music gatherings –has also burnished Oxford Bookstore reputation and recognition as an integral presence in the city’s intellectual and cultural life, as it shapes and hones the sensibilities of the younger generations of readers.

Milestones that mark the history of the heritage bookstore are inextricably linked with the nation’s pre and post-independence history. A pavement presence in the era of stalwarts such as Thacker & Spink and Newman’s, Oxford Bookstore stood its own as the former shut shop. Global and National events, along with those specific to Bengal, were significant in the spectrum of books that found shelf space, and played out in the memory of the 100-year-old institution, including the Marxist and Naxal eras. Having grown with the city, Oxford Bookstore is an intrinsic part of understanding its history, its people and its changing times.

Creating experiential reading spaces….

With both the Heritage Oxford Bookstore Kolkata – and their location of the Oxford Bookstore to a heritage building in Connaught Place in 2014 – the brand’s vision was to create an experiential space that included room for public gatherings and interaction and a cafe within the bookstore premises. The emphasis was not just on retail, but on creating a space that would help customers connect to the experience of reading.

Oxford Bookstore Kolkata retains its old world charm with some of its original architectural features in place – the steel girders manufactured in Scotland in 1906, the original cornices and more. The ambience is further enhanced by the Wall of fame, and the Tea Museum, along with its vast expanses of warm teak wood and cane lattice work.

Host to who’s who…

Oxford Bookstore has hosted innumerable and memorable readings by a slew of world renowned, award winning authors. Among them feature the late Sir VS Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, Gunter Grass, Paul Theroux, Amitav Ghosh, Vikram Seth, and many, many others. The Prince and Princess of Thailand, and the Royal families of Japan are among Oxford’s illustrious guests, as are other visiting dignitaries and diplomats. It is this wide family of readers that make Oxford Bookstore the icon it is.

Focus on Indian literature…

The Bookstore has a strong focus on Indian Literature, and this is a priority. “We believe that regional literature should receive more attention, be honoured more, exposed more,” says Priti Paul. “There is a huge amount of literature in languages like Hindi, Bengali, Urdu. Not only does Oxford Bookstore stock books in these languages, but holds events such as Translation Seminars, Hindi Mahotsav and Urdu poetry. The Bookstore’s highly awaited and hugely successful Apeejay Bangla Sahitya Utsob, held annually at Jorasanko, the heritage home of Rabindranath Tagore, celebrates its fifth year this November, and bears witness to Oxford Bookstore’s commitment to the rich literature of the Bengali language.

On Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize…

Oxford Bookstore Book Cover Prize is a first-of-its-kind award for brilliance in book design, an attempt by the iconic bookstore to recognize and encourage the extraordinary work of illustrators, designers and publishers across India. The new prize appreciates the importance of the balance of graphics and narrative, particularly in our increasingly visual age, and believes that a book cover interprets and decodes the ensuing text in crucial ways that contribute to its ultimate success. Under the guidance of Priti Paul, Oxford Bookstores has been pushing all boundaries to encourage the publishing industry and celebrate the business of books. Standout cover design is an integral part of the success of a book, designers and illustrators play a vital role in helping a book become emblematic and create recall.

Nothing like printed books…

“Print or Digital, it is Reading that matters. Brick and mortar bookstores or digital books? While the younger generations might be choosing a visual streaming TV show over reading Shakespeare, there is enough evidence to support that millennials do actually read—they just read differently now. The digital revolution is going into a decline,” Tim Waterstone told the Oxford literary festival. He opines “until a customer can walk through a digital library/bookstore and open books at random; until the technology becomes as satisfying to the physical senses as the text is to the cognitive self, there’s still a need for shiny, gorgeous, satisfying books. And when those things happen, if they do, we will have lost nothing in the transition.”

Expanding horizons…

Priti Paul, Director Apeejay Surendra Group, has a constantly evolving and dynamic vision for the bookstore which has been the nation’s leader in several significant literary and lifestyle initiatives in the last two decades. Cha Bar was the first of its kind urban contemporary space that created a rage in Kolkata in year 2000, turning tea from a dry page in history to a lifestyle drink! Priti’s brain child backed by generations of Apeejay Surrendra group’s experience in tea plantation business, Cha Bar was created as an integral part of the iconic Oxford Bookstore, Park Street. The concept was expanded pan India integrated into Oxford Bookstores and customers loved the experience of being able to browse at leisure, leafing through the books of their choice, over a cup of tea from the wide selection available at the Cha Bar or simply unwinding with friends sipping the rejuvenating beverage, iced or piping hot!

In 2006, Oxford Bookstore redefined book retailing with the launch of India’s only dedicated bookstore for children, Oxford Junior, at that time. The decade old Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival, one of the very first in the Eastern Region, is celebrated as an outstanding literary initiative.

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