Unplugged joy

Unplugged joy

What’s the thing that everybody loves and treasures the most? It’s a bookstore.” This quote by American author Jeff Kinney seems to be well-thought of and holds true even at a time when investing in a gizmo or gadget can probably provide one with free titles for a lifetime. The virtual world may make things more convenient for the avid reader, but can in no way parallel the charm of a bookstore. Simply walking into one, exploring the sea of publications, absorbing the different colours and textures and connecting with fellow book-lovers is like a rendezvous not many would trade for an online experience.

Amit, who runs Goobes Book Republic, Church Street, says, “It’s like watching a movie. Some people like going to the theatre while some are happy to download it on their laptops. But the theatre has a whole different feel to it. It’s the same with a bookstore. When one goes online, they often have a specific title in mind and read only that so they are limited by their own vision. In a bookstore, one may come searching for one thing and end up buying something better, given the many choices.

All three of us — owner Ravi, Vinayak and myself — are heavy readers and we try helping out customers with whatever knowledge we have. Even if one person tells us that they enjoyed a book suggested by us, our day is made. Kids also find it exciting to come here with parents and flip through books for hours at end.” He makes a point that “the respect a bookstore commands can’t be earned by an internet portal”.

Roshni, a busy professional, avers, “I read on the Kindle and paperbacks too. The Kindle comes in handy while travelling since it can store multiple books and allows me to read quick reviews online. But there are a lot of books that aren’t available in that format and are still in paperback. Besides, the minute I enter a bookstore, I am transported to a different world altogether. Feeling the book, seeing the print, coloured pictures and quotes in italics as well as using a bookmark — there’s a special connection which I may not find in an e-book or Kindle. One never knows what will catch their eye in a bookstore and the review of the owner physically present there is definitely more valuable.” She adds, “I try stealing time to bask in the solace of bookstores and go all the way to Koramangala from RT Nagar to savour a variety of regional language books at ‘Atta Galatta’.” Rachna takes to the iPad only for books that aren’t available in stores for she feels that, “Electronic media robs me of the pleasure that I get while holding a hard copy”.

Visit the 15-year-old Blossom Book House and you will find several aficionados engrossed in their favourite volumes, anytime of the day. “Every month we see a 10 to 15 per cent increase in sales of both new and second-hand books. I see it like this that those who love books will find their way to a bookstore,” explains owner Mayi Gowda. Dheeraj, a regular here, feels that a store not only offers a greater selection but is also a place to meet new people. “I can talk to so many others here and let loose my feelings and imagination in a conversation. I normally come to pick up a couple of titles but end up taking home three to four. I once found a book I really wanted on an online portal but came here to purchase it simply because I can touch and turn the pages. The sensory experience counts.”

However, even as the loyalty of many bookstore patrons has remained intact, some owners feel that the patronage has declined in the recent past. Says Prakash Gangaram of Gangarams Book Bureau, “Footfalls seem to have fallen in the last seven years by about 50 per cent, mainly due to three reasons — traffic and parking problems in areas where the majority of bookstores are located, high discounts being offered by online sellers and the tech-savvy new generation who are quickly adapting to smartphones and apps.” However, he maintains that though the book business may not flourish as much as it did earlier but it will definitely not be wiped out in the years to come. Evidently, a book is the perfect way to unwind and visiting
a bookstore is like a ‘rejuvenating trip’.

As fervent reader Toby Joseph puts it, “After a day of work, most of which is spent in front of a computer, I find a book that helps me to unplug from the digital world, both physically refreshing as well as mentally stimulating.”

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