Retailers log off as online book sales boom

Page Turners Penguins franchised book store has announced its decision to close down

Following the closure of the book store ‘Crossword’ on Brigade Road, ‘Page Turners’ – Penguin’s franchised store, which began with great fanfare two years ago, has also announced its decision to close down.

Page Turners outlet on MG Road. DH Photo

Staff at ‘Page Turners' explained that the decision was made because of losses brought on by the boom in online book purchases. “The way people buy books has changed.

More and more people are buying them online through Flipkart or other e-commerce websites who provide free home delivery, a large catalogue and discounts,” a store official told Deccan Herald.

The growth of online sales have also affected corporate chains such as ‘Landmark’ and ‘Reliance Time Out’, industry insiders said.

These losses have not been limited to Bangalore. ‘Crossword’ has also been forced to close three retail outlets in Mumbai recently.

New business model

Speaking at the Bangalore Literature Festival recently, V K Karthika, publisher and chief editor of Harper Collins India, revealed that nearly 25 per cent of Harper Collins’ revenue comes from the online sale of books through Flipkart, Infibeam, Indiaplaza and Amazon.

She added that until recently the publishing houses were not dealing with these online marts directly.

“We have been now forced to catch up with the new phenomenon. This would also induce many changes in the publishing world in the coming years,” she said, but expressed a belief that the large discount-free delivery business model of the present online marts are also not sustainable.

Some Bangloreans, however, feel that a book store can never be virtually substituted and have lamented the closing of stores in the City.

Sundarnath, a classical musician and a self-professed book lover, told Deccan Herald: “A book store is a sociological space and buying a book is a process in itself that is celebratory. I fail to understand how the people are falling for the virtual push carts and buying not only books but also clothes.”

A senior book store owner in the City also remarked that some online marts are commodifying books. He claimed that book stores were actually cultural hubs of the City.

‘Stores need reinventing’

D N Guruprasad, a techie who quit his job and began ‘Akruthi Books’ at Rajajinagar, said online buying of books has been a huge threat to retail book stores like his. However, he said that book stores will have to reinvent themselves in order to compete with online stores.

“Our bookstores have always been the bridge between the readers and authors. We provide personalised service complete with book recommendations according to one’s taste which no online mart can provide,” he said.

Guruprasad also expressed the idea that book stores are irreplaceable. “People will only realise what they have lost after they are all gone. I shudder to think of such a day,” he added.

Two other bibliophiles, Subodh Sankar and his wife Lakshmi quit their mainstream jobs and staked their future on selling books. They also converted their house in Koramangala into a store, ‘Atta Galatta’.

“Online buying only intensifies the competition but it can never kill the retail business. It is only that we retail stores have to reinvent ourselves,” Sankar said, and added that while the Flipkarts of the world provide large discounts, his store sells books at the retail price.

“I don’t compete with online stores on the price. But I give my readers an experience that online sellers can never give. Our store also doubles as a literary pantry, complete with author-reader interactions and book readings.”

He however, agreed that low returns and high real estate prices were killing the retail book business.

“I shudder to think of what would have happened if I was operating my business from a rented location,” he said. “My business would have been completely unviable.”

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