TREND Online book shoppers are growing younger
Atiny revolution is brewing in the way children’s books reach their readers. By the age of nine and 10, as soon as children get hooked to stories and series and make up their minds about favourite authors, they begin shopping online for their preferred titles. Kids are still browsing books in stores watched over by indulgent parents, but the number of young, nimble fingers clicking the ‘buy’ button, often with an elder keeping watch, is also growing. Many children are having the best of both worlds, hopping into the neighborhood book shop to browse and getting less common titles online.
Classrooms and school friends are still the place where snippets of information are exchanged and gathered. But book talk is now anchored in various online portals. Ten-year-old Lavanya Suresh got the nod to order books online after she impressed her parents with her knowledge about book shopping on the internet. “I know books online are slightly cheaper and could also tell the day the order was likely to get here,” she says. Lavanya finally ordered her first book, her favourite author Geronimo Stilton, with her brother’s help. She recently received her second order and is impressed by the online portal. “Some books of Stilton are not available at the bookstore here and I got them online,” says Lavanya, who lives in Kozhikode. “Scouting for books online appears easier and I also get a pretty bookmark with a book,” she beams.
The sentiment is shared by 11-year-old Shashank C.P., another online shopper. “You don’t have to take the trouble of going to a bookstore,” he says. Shashank has shopped for books online twice, once for a Percy Jackson book, with his father’s help. His grandfather, Udayasankaran, says, “We encourage the child’s habit of reading.” According to him, Shashank is often taken to the local bookstores, and online is merely another medium to nourish his love of books. “He seeks our permission before ordering online and also tells us the books he intends to buy,” he adds.
The book hunters
Eleven-year-old Varsha Gokul’s mother, Silvia Chandran, has a tough time keeping her daughter’s demand at bay. “I have verbally agreed to buy her books online, but I feel she is too small to be doing it,” says Silvia. She agrees she underestimated her daughter’s knowledge of online shopping, but is happier taking her to a bookstore. “I regularly take her to the bookstore and the last time we came back with five books by Stilton.”
Says Tomy Anthony, regional manager of the chain store DC Books, Thiruvananthapuram, “We have been nurturing our online shopping segment for the past few months.” He adds, “There has been a 20 to 25 per cent rise in the demand of books across segments, including that of children’s books.” Tomy believes increased online shopping doesn’t hamper the prospects of a book store.
Neha Khanna, assistant marketing manager at the chain outlet Crossword Bookstore, Mumbai, which also sells online, says the traditional book-shopping with kids and parents browsing books together is still largely the norm. “The chunk of children’s books selling online is small, though it is the number one category offline,” she says. “HomeShop18.com receives over 1,000 orders daily in children books category and around half of these are for the kids segment between the age group of 9-12 years,” according to an e-mail response attributed to Narasimha Jayakumar, COO – E-commerce of the online portal. The portal launched its book store in early 2012 and the demand for children’s books has been rising steadily, says the e-mail. Apart from the metros, tier I and tier II cities are “the key markets for kids books”, the e-mail says.
Anushka Ravishankar, author of Tiger on a Tree and Elephants Never Forget , believes inaccessibility could be turning many to the internet. “You know you will get in it online, especially if it is part of a series. Nobody likes to miss a series,” says Anushka. She believes as long as children are buying and reading books it is a healthy world. Along with online, she says, the niche, neighbourhood book shops where an individual bond exists between sellers and customers, are doing well. Though she doesn’t find many drawbacks for online book shopping if there is parental monitoring, she says, “You are capable of surprising yourself at a book shop, bumping into books you have no clue about. It is possible online too, but I don’t know how much search children of this age are capable of.”