The bookstore has a serious challenge, and needs to denounce its original avatar. Publishers, bookstore chains and authors share their mantra to make it a hotspot for the fickle reader
Started in 2011, a difficult era for books and bookstores, Kitab Khana has registered 20 per cent growth every year. This bookstore located in SoBo has also become the site of many cultural events, and has tie-ups with city festivals. "Our store is the biggest in both space and collection in the city," says T Jagath, CEO, Kitab Khana.
A book launch at the earlier Landmark in Andheri
The secret for this unlikely success, he says, is because they have stuck to their loyal clientele and the selection. "We primarily keep non-fiction and children’s books. In fiction, we only keep the literary kind. The reader thus knows what he can expect here," he explains. An important feature of the store are staff who can guide the reader to books they want. "We ensure that our staff read two books every month in whatever subject they enjoy reading," he says. Another trick of the trade is a flat 20 per cent discount on all books. "We ensure that customer finds books here that they would find nowhere else," he says.
This library-cum cafe has become a popular hangout joint for the city bibliophile and the indie reader. Dealing mostly with a young crowd, Ankur, the librarian at the space observes that the reader now loves to spend time with a book and a some food to go with it goes perfectly well. "It is important for a store to be stocked with recent releases and and have a cosy ambience to allow the reader to be lost in the store for hours," he says.
A spokesperson from Landmark bookstore informed that though there have been a few rough years, the bookstore chain has bounced back with their store in Navi Mumbai doing brisk business too. A spokesperson from the store chain said that after the initial confusion about ebooks and Kindle, the market now is stable. The reader of the physical book has remained. "In the last 12 months the market for physical books have grown," they state. What has worked for them are pre-orders of books, introduction of colouring books and stocking more children’s literature.
Author of A White Trail: A Journey Into The Heart of Pakistan’s Religious Minorities
Khalid wants bookstores to place books on the front and introduce it to the customers. He also considers events around books at the store important. "I think all modern bookstores need to have these book events. Many new book stores in Pakistan are now doing that. They have small meetings and events arranged every other weekend to draw in crowd," he says. He points out that even aesthetically the bookstores now need to be much more vibrant than before. They need to have murals, quotations and portraits. How the books are laid out is also an important feature, he says. Some of Khalid’s favourite bookstores in Pakistan are the Last Word, Books n Beans, Readings, Liberty Books and Saeed Book Bank. "The first two are new bookstores, done up artistically with murals and paintings. They also have regular events. I like Liberty because they have a wide variety and the staff is very helpful. I enjoy Readings because they have a coffee shop within the book store. One can get a book and sit with a cup of coffee,"
Head - Marketing and Consumer Insight -- Hachette
The business of books, according to Sundaramurti, is best done through a vital connect with customers. "This connect comes from knowing your customers, curating titles in your store for them, stocking intelligently, really backing titles that you believe in and having store staff that are well informed and passionate about books," she says. According to her a modern bookstore needs to understand that it cannot fight online retailers on price but it can do something online retailers cannot: create and service communities as well as create an experience. "For a bookstore to survive and thrive today it needs to curate the titles it keeps, understand its clientele and give them an experience they cannot replicate online," she explains and adds, "But the most crucial service to provide is having well-read, bibliophile store staff who can hand-sell the books to customers, who can speak to customers and understand what their tastes are and recommend books accordingly." On her favourite list of bookstores are Midlands and The Bookshop in Delhi, and Mumbai’s Kitab Khana.
Publisher, Juggernaut books
On being probed about her tweets, Sarkar opened up further on what according her works for bookstores now. "I think a bookstore has to be a place people want to visit, so design, book display, lighting, using food and beverage, other products, space for interactivity, these are all elements the modern bookstore needs. Alongside this, of course, you want a range of books and great booksellers. But I haven’t seen the first part done as innovatively as Eslite (the Taiwan book chain)."