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Urban bookstores: More the merrier

Urban bookstores: More the merrier

Trans World Features (TWF) | 30 Apr 2015, 10:13 pm
Apart from adding new dimensions to the way they treated the young book-lovers in cities, bookstores have come a long way by slowly and steadily gliding their way into becoming luxury lifestyle stores for the urbanites as they offer more than just books. Torsha Banerjee reports.

When it comes to bookstores, there was a certain stereotype attached in the way they were presented and re-presented, until some years ago.

For a cosmopolitan Indian, it is not just about going to buy a book that his friends or family have suggested to him over and over again. The conventional bookstores are going an extra mile for the luxury and comfort of the people with evolved lifestyle choices.

Bookstores are evolving with an extra effort to bring together multiple public interests under one roof.

An apt argument in this scenario is Kolkata's very own College Street area which is, since bygone eras, considered to be a paradise for book-lovers of all ages and from various economic backgrounds.

The entire College Street can be assumed to be a ginormous bookstore in itself. Having said that, the numbers that are infiltrating into these plush lifestyle-oriented bookstores have only increased over the years.

On being asked about her preference in a bookstore, 21-year-old Soumi Paul Chowdhury in Kolkata, a city known for its book lovers and the mammoth book fair every year, says, "I like the ambiance in a bookstore where I can sit for hours at end and sip coffee and at the same time read my favorite books. If I get that, there's nothing like it."

She adds, "Of course, I'll choose a book-cafe or a lifestyle store over normal book shops that are in College Street area per say, because then I'll get to spend a luxury amount of time over there."

What seems really interesting here is the influx of western lifestyle in the Indian urban populace. Book-stores cannot limit the customers with the choice of just books and magazines; they have to come up with provisions of multiple interests.

This is important in the long run as the bookstores are steadily losing their grip over customers after the emergence of e-books and online-reading platforms. The impact of digitization has taken over a large number people and converted them into ‘netizens’ of the world wide web.

The online reading platforms have kept a firm hold on their followers as it’s a relatively cheaper medium and it has a certain amount of convenience attached to it.

According to an article in The Economist, the digital onslaught of e-books and Amazon-style e-tailers have put bookstores in an existential predicament.  “Digital books are expected to outsell print titles by 2015 in Britain,” says the magazine quoting Sam Hancock, digital product manager at HarperCollins.

22 year old Sourav Kumar Mondal, student of Rabindra Bharati University, says, “It’s a fact that the bookstores are losing their charm with the advent of e-books and online shopping options. These relieve the customers from doing the extra work.”

He adds, “So, it’s a good idea for the bookstores to add more options like lifestyle accessories, stationary goods, gift items, t-shirts etc. If a superhero fan like me finds a great range of graphic novels and graphic t-shirts under the same roof, why wouldn’t he visit the place?”

Consistently facing competition in the market from the e-commerce giants like Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal; conventional bookstores are changing now.

A bookstore now aims to be full of activity and should not merely consist of walls stacked with books. To make the bookstores livelier, there has been a visible inclusion of the café culture into the stores itself. This is especially very popular among the youngsters.

Bookstores  are now very well acquainted with the consumer preferences. One of the popular bookstores in itself in Kolkata, Story, which recently celebrated its 1st anniversary on Poila Boishak, i.e., Bengali New Year, boasts of being not just a bookstore, but a lifestyle store.

“Story has received overwhelming love and affection from our valued customers. We hope to satisfy our customers in the long run with our new services and celebrate the journey together.” says Sidharth Pansari, Chief Story-teller, Story & Managing Director, Primarc Group.

A template of the multi-utility stores, Story provides the consumers with multiple reasons to visit their stores. Story is a venture of the Primarc Group of Companies that pioneered the concept of environment friendly green buildings across MIG & HIG segments in Bengal, with its flaghsip project Astitva being nominated as the first GOLD rated residential building in West Bengal by IGBC.

Story is eastern India’s largest standalone bookstore covering an area of 15000 sq feet. Story owners say they aim to become the country's best bookstore. Eventually a pilgrimage for all book-lovers, Story has a massive collection of books of all genres and a dedicated floor for children.

Through innovative technology and outstanding customer service Story provides more than 50000 titles, but the store is also visited for other accessories.

A multitude of collectible pens and writing accessories are available in the 'Pen and Ink' section here.

The 'Art Street' section offers art material and accessories, 'Gift it!' section has bountiful of special gift items, greetings section boasts of a wide range of all reasons greeting cards whereas the paper shop & amp; stationery section has a comprehensive range of house paper and stationery materials of different kinds.

Avinash Pandey, a 22 year old Kolkatan, says, “Lifestyle book stores provide us with the opportunity of reading books along with enjoying other pleasurable activities, such as listening to music of your favorite artists over a cup of coffee with friends, or checking out a variety of magazines and comics.”

Increased exposure to international products via the media encourages people to take part in the change that the world is going through.

Adds 23 year old Souvik Banerjee, "I'm kind of a fickle whenever I go to a bookstore, specially, here at Story. I start by finding out a book my friends have been fussing about and then, I find another one that I haven't heard of but it looks interesting. Also, I have a niece and I love to pamper her with toys and her favorite fairy tale books. You get all of that in a single building."

He adds, "It's amazing how much they have focused on kids and promoted reading habits in them. As I am a frequent customer here, I have witnessed a number of events organized specifically for kids."

Lifestyle stores, as opposed to mere bookstores are a rage now in the city and in the country.

Images: Story bookstore, Kolkata. Photos by Avishek Mitra

Urban bookstores: More the merrier

Trans World Features (TWF)
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