Where are the book readers?

about 3 years ago
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There used to be a time when we were actually members of libraries, book libraries from where we could rent out books. There was always the tension of late fees and fear of losing the books. Buying books at book shops was such a pleasure; especially at those roadside book vendors who used to hold a treasure trove of books, which came at throwaway prices.

Alas, over a period of time, we have been seeing lower and lower number of book shops and almost all those neighbourhood libraries have shut down. Finding a bookshop today means travelling to either Crosswords or some bookshops in the five star hotels. Some of the roadside vendors are gone and some that are around are just about surviving.

So where have all the book lovers gone? Those who are serious readers, who still to manage to get books online with majority having shifted to kindle. But what about the new generation? Why is it that most of India does not have this love for books? Why do we not read at all? Most very conveniently blame it on the advent of computers and other online devices. But that argument holds no water.

Abroad, people still remain ardent readers with every place having at least one bookshop. Yes, for many big chains like Borders, there have been closures but we still see them all around. In fact in USA, between 2009 to 2015, the American Booksellers Association reported a 35% growth in the number of independent booksellers, from 1,651 stores to 2,227.

Bookshops are a must. Independent booksellers promote localism; provide a more personal and specialized customer experience. Book stores can become the intellectual centers where likeminded interests can meet and debate. Sadly, we have switched to meaningless debates on TV and consumerism, social media are the only way people know to keep their time occupied.

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