A decade or so back Crossword Bookstore used to be a crowded place. Now, it’s often empty. It’s the place where a few readers come to browse, or people kill time before their movie starts. One of Pune’s oldest bookstores, Manneys, shut down in 2012 after more than fifty years of selling books. Borders, one of the largest chain bookstores in the US, shut down in 2009.
All this is just part of the mass migration to buying books online. While I do miss the smell of printed pages in bookstores, and the joy of actually browsing in real time, it’s not all a bad thing. Paperbacks sold online are cheaper. Ebooks are far cheaper. Writers can earn better royalties. You can store thousands of books on your reading device, which saves space. You don’t need to weep looking at your books sitting in cardboard boxes, while you try to decide which bookcase to buy.
Some say that people don’t read anymore. These people must visit the Strand Book Fair that takes place at the Sunderbai Hall, Churchgate, Mumbai, every year. It’s the Mecca for booklovers. A hall the size of a football field is filled with books from every corner of the earth, on every subject under the sun including the sun itself. There are fantastic discounts, and it’s impossible to see the entire place in one day (which is why it goes on for ten days).
The nature of buying and selling books is changing. But hopefully reading, as a habit, will live on for some time.