Pune: Bookstores struggle to keep readers in the digital revolution

With the World Book Day being celebrated on April 23, Newsline tracks a few bookstores in the city hat hare more than 50 years old and have withstood the brunt of the digital revolution in the world of reading.

Written by Dhanashree Padhye, Samreen Sayyed | Pune | Updated: April 23, 2016 12:00:10 am
Popular Book Store Popular Book Store at Deccan Gymkhana. Express photo

Over the last decade, bookstores across the world have succumbed to competition from digital books, with reading enthusiasts turning to e-books and online shopping. With the World Book Day being celebrated on April 23, Newsline tracks a few bookstores in the city hat hare more than 50 years old and have withstood the brunt of the digital revolution in the world of reading. Just like old books, they have many lives.

Started in the 1940s, Rohit Enterprises, situated at East Street, Camp, commands the love and respect of its loyal customers. Rohit Jerajani, the owner, said, “The online market has not affected my store so much mainly because of the service I provide. People go to bookshops in malls and theatres but they do not have a complete catalogue of the books. The people who give service over there have very poor knowledge about the books and just bluntly ask customers to buy whatever is available. When customers ask for any authors, I show them different books written by that author or 10 different books of different authors in some category which satisfies my customers.”

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Jerajani confesses that around two years ago, sales did begin to fall but before things could turn worse, he did damage control. “I met different NGOs and associations and came up with the idea for organising book fairs in firms to promote reading. That did well,” he said, adding that he also started a mobile book shop called ‘Books on Wheels’ wherein for two days a week he goes to corporate companies and sets up a temporary bookstore there itself.

Rasik Sahitya Pvt Ltd, a 52-year-old bookstore in Appa Balwant Chowk, has seen a drastic change in its customer base over the last few years. Though some old customers have remained, sales have decreased by 20 per cent. To control things, the store started its own website seven years ago to keep up with the market. Talking about the changing trends in the market, Bharat Darwatkar, a staff member who has been working in the store for 30 years, said, “The readers we now see in the store are of the age group 30-55 years. Though the online market has affected us, the new readers are also doubling in number. There are still losses to us when we have to give them additional discounts to compete with the online world. We have understood that no one today has enough time so we need to provide them services which will save their time.”

The shop also provides library-on-wheels in which a mobile van carries 1,000-1,500 books and moves around specific areas of the city on fixed days to make it convenient for the readers. It also holds exhibitions from time to time in schools and IT hubs to promote reading habits.

Utkarsh Book Service, which was started in 1954 is trying hard to hold the fort. Sudakar Joshi, the owner, said, “Times are tough now – if we give a discount, we bear losses. The income has been affected so much that paying monthly salary to our workers becomes difficult at times.”

Established in 1954, Popular Book Store at Deccan Gymkhana is not as popular as it was in its early days. Sunil Gadgil, the owner, said, “Now we are mainly concentrating on Marathi publications rather than English ones, though the profit margin is less.”

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