It ‘was more like a memorial service than a funeral,’ read a line in an article in The Huffington Post when Borders, a chain of bookstores in the U.S., called it a day in 2011.
At a time when book stores, especially independent ones, are braving the digital onslaught, the smell of books, it appears, can still be a draw in Chennai.
“There is a big market for books here. Chennai has a lot of serious readers,” says Gautam Jatia, CEO of Kolkata-based chain of bookstores, Starmark, which opened its store at Express Avenue on Saturday.
But, books, he says, are more of an impulsive buy, which is why they have to be where the footfalls are high. “In Kolkata all our stores are in malls,” says Mr. Jatia.
The current format, where there are stationery, music, and other products alongside books, works best, he says. “Almost 40 per cent of our sales come from books. e-books have their own convenience, but I think both can co-exist,” he says.
N. Ram, director, Kasturi & Sons Ltd., who inaugurated the store on Saturday, says bookstores around the world have come under pressure today. But, while Kindle editions and e-books are exerting pressure elsewhere, “in India, people still love books,” he says.
Though happy that the city got another book store, Sandeep Belsare, says the city needs exclusive bookstores by publishers such as Motilal Banarsidass. “You get books by big publishing houses in most stores. We need specialised, independent bookstores,” he says.
But, one such bookstore just down the road, which stocked volumes on anthropology, sociology and translated works, among other genres, has closed ‘for the moment’. Bookpoint on Mount Road now houses only books by publisher Orient Blackswan and its associated companies, says K.A. Roymon, regional manager, Orient Blackswan. Bookpoint is their sister concern.
Traffic diversions and technology have made them change course. “The number of walk-ins had come down, also because of diversions due to Metro Rail work. Once the project is complete, we may revert to our earlier format,” he says.