Book Stores awaiting bibliophiles

Arts & Culture City Covid-19

Book stores businesses that were just beginning to recover after the first wave of COVID-19, have again started to incur losses. Books, deliveries and supply chain, have also been affected after the second lockdown in Mumbai.

MUMBAI: Book stores have been badly affected due to the second lockdown in Mumbai. Book store owners have reported losses of up to 50 percent. 

Jagath Tekkatte, COO of Kitabkhana Book Store, Mumbai, said, “After the first lockdown, we restarted the Kitabkhana Book Store in July 2020. We had a good response from book lovers till March 2021.” 

He added,  “In the first wave, we could deliver books online. But now the business is completely closed. We are incurring nearly 50 percent of losses compared to pre-pandemic period.”  

Trushant Tamgaonkar, Executive Director of Title Waves book store, said, “The second wave has impacted us very badly. Before the pandemic, we used to get 150 to 180 visitors on weekdays and 200 to 250 customers on weekends. Now the business has gone down by 99 percent during the second lockdown.” 

Mr. Tamgaokar stated, in the first wave, publishers and distributors were working but now they are not. So books can’t be delivered despite orders from a customer. Many publishers and booksellers have demanded that the government include bookselling business in essential services, he added.

Mr. Chiragh Oberoi CEO of Crossword bookstores said, “Things had started to look better with the business at 75% of pre-pandemic level in February 2021 with the hope of full revival in Q1 of FY22. After the first lockdown when we resumed operations, we had seen a significant decline in footfalls across all our formats, which gradually over the months was coming back with consumer sentiments and confidence improving. But now after the second lockdown with all our stores not being operational, the offline business is stressed, while we make all efforts to service our customers through the Online channels.”

Books account for 15 percent  of e-commerce in the country. But due to lockdown, even online deliveries cannot be made by bookstores. Mr. Jagath added, “Now e-commerce companies are not delivering books at home hence we can’t take orders online. Suppliers and 95 percent of the publishers from Delhi are closed due to lockdown. In the first wave, we used to take orders from corporates and deliver books directly. Now we have demand for books but due to lack of suppliers and no delivery by e-commerce companies, we can’t deliver books.”

Mr. Tamgaonkar added, “We are not there on any online platforms to sell books. There is no profit for us through these e-commerce companies. We earn only three to five percent from them. They also have hidden charges. We give recommendations of books to the people who visit bookstores; they get the special ambience of books which they won’t get in online purchases.”

  • Kitabkhana Bookstore before lockdown

Kaiwan Mehta, a regular visitor of bookstores, and an avid reader said, “I prefer visiting book stores. As a reader, I like to look at new books and see what’s happening there. In a bookstore, you have a different ambience. I get personal service and recommendations of a book by the staff there. Bookstores know their regular readers and they give personal services to them. I miss the book store during a lockdown.”

Writer’s Digest states that independent bookstores directly serve the community and the individual. Their contributions are invaluable. Independent bookstores support core values of community, creativity, convening, civility, and contact. 

Ranjit Hoskote, critique, and poet said,  “Books play a major role in society. They are a very important part of our reading culture for many years. Our government should have included them in the essential services and helped them.” He also added that people will visit the bookstores again once the lockdown is lifted. As going to bookstores and buying them will always be part of our culture. The next generation will also visit bookstores despite having an online platform to read.

HOD of Economics department of SBRR college, Mysuru, Prof. Venkatalakshmi M N said, “Due to lockdown there is a drastic decline in demand of all kinds of books and business of books is in crisis. Even before Pandemic people prefer to purchase books online, as they have easy accessibility of E books. This trend is increasing day by day among educated people in this digital era. Therefore independent bookseller should totally switch their business to e commerce portal. They should also create their own website to increase sells. Unless these people get updated with ongoing changes improvement can not be seen in their financial status.”