Thursday, January 21, 2016

Losing our Bookstores: Impact of Online Mega Stores

Not a long time ago, in a major national newspaper Ruskin bond wrote about how bookstores are closing all over the country due to the rise of online sellers which offer considerable discounts to lure customers their way. While this switching makes perfect sense economically for the consumer but for an ardent book lover this may not be the best news.

Many of my favourite memories as a child are related to bookstores. My grandmother used to take me to this small cosy bookstore near our house every Friday. I was allowed to pick up any two books and one Champak. I would look at the shelves stacked with books. My grandmother would take me to the children's section and ask me to pick up any two books. I would play "Icky Mickey Monkey" to select the books. This introduced me to the fabulous world of Panchtantra, Nancy Drew, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and many more.
The kindest thing the bookshop owner did was he allowed me to read the books before I bought them, so I could decide if I wanted to buy them or not. He himself was very well read and recommended books to me.  
Bookstores owned by people like that are a joy to visit. They are cosy and personal. One can wander and let destiny help pick the next favourite read. The romance and joy of buying and rushing home to read that new found friend is difficult to put in words.
However, these days most people are buying books online, mainly because they offer substantial discounts. It is not anomalous to find up to 70 or 80 per cent off on popular books, especially during big sales. Some would argue that money is the most deciding incentive for decision makers or consumers, but it makes the process of book buying very impersonal; almost mechanical. You just type the book you want, hit buy and voila book is yours. This convenience comes in exchange of the pleasure of browsing countless books in bookstores and discovering a new author or a new genre. Or reading the first chapter of a completely obscure book and finding out that you like it, then buying it.
Not only are the online stores taking the experience out of book buying but as more people switch to buying books online, the less money small book stores make. They can’t offer such discounts and due to decreasing sales they are forced to close shop. In fact, the bookstore I mention before also went under about six months back (and that broke my heart).  
In conclusion, the impact of online retailers might have been a blessing for people who want to save money but for the lovers of books who value the whole experience of buying a book, it is not so great. I miss my little bookstore.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

No comments:

Post a Comment