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What will Mumbai be reading this year?

2012 brought radical developments with it in the book publishing industry. Penguin India, the largest publishing house has decided to make 200 odd-titles to be available as eBooks. While on the same footing, the e-commerce giant Amazon declared that Kindle stores are going to be launched offering over one million titles. With the booming Indian publishing industry analysed to be growing at a heartening rate of 30%, bookstores hope to vie for the reader’s attention in full throttle albeit with strategies of various kinds.

For purists, there is always the Fort magnate, Strand Book Stall, the fantasyland of literary junkies. While in conversation with the daughter of founder T Shanbag, Vidya Virkar, one is impressed by the 65-year legacy that she bears. She believes in an undiluted place that offers handpicked books offering promise and taste. She feels that the physical entity of a book is seminal in forming an indispensable emotional and intellectual bond with the reader.

Virkar iterates that in a country like India, which is the third largest publishing country in the English-speaking world, choice becomes a question. The philosophy of Strand is always to assist a reader in the journey of becoming a book connoisseur, she maintains. Undeterred by the growing popularity of online stores such as Flipkart that has managed to sell 7,50,000 titles in a short span of two years, Virkar labels it as a ‘trend’.

Child’s play
For your regular dose of authors, celebrity authors and celebrities, Crossword is just the right converging point. With their pervasive presence on the Mumbai map, Crossword definitely leaves a mark of its own. Kids seem to have brought in a change in emphasis with a deluge in demand for games, toys and of course, Children’s and Young Adult (YA) fiction. The young teen category is witnessing a surge from budding capable authors and publishers that aim to persuade adolescent children to find food for thought in the age-old medium.

Support for the spine
Thus, Crossword expects a healthy 20% sales target from the upcoming genre while regional books have also managed to buoy up by an impressive 30%. They also hope to add zing to the vibrant bookstores by focussing on different categories at different junctures giving one a new reason to visit the store. Despite the online storm of discounts Kinjal Shah, COO, Crossword, feels that they are anchored enough by their unmatched experience beckoning a new horde of customers to the store. The bookstore chain’s loyalty program is a good indicator of their presence that boasts of 4 lakh followers that are privy to special privileges and offers.

Even at Landmark, the usual mix of YA books, Indian authors and excitingly, women’s fiction, — fiction on women issues and by women authors — seem to be the first picks of the year. The bookstore chain has a different outlook where they espouse themselves as a ‘reading, leisure and entertainment centre’. Ashutosh Pandey, COO, Landmark astutely reflects that the two-and-a-half decades of experience have brought in heaps of insights into customer trends. He sagaciously puts that books were the prime source of leisure and entertainment for the Indian reader in the ’90s.

In between the lines
One of the exciting features that Landmark aims to introduce in the coming year is enabling the customer to download books and music in case the store lacks it.  In the last decade or more, he feels several other avenues of entertainment, beyond books, have sprouted up that have faced an immense support from the online and digital world. Without a doubt then Landmark is the largest retailer of books, games and music in India. Their online presence is marked with the largest book catalogue as well as a Landmark e-reader app. As per their focus, books still seem to occupy the centrestage although they hope to synergise the “offline and online experience” where these media produce a collaborative experience.

For those in SoBo — think office goers, young professionals and college students — Kitab Khana has emerged as a favoured quick-bite hub. With a projected growth of 25-30% in the coming year, it will focus on the usual suspects as well as refine their collection in Art and Architecture. According to Kitab Khana, their USP is its experiential dimension that is enhanced by a space that allows hot steaming coffees and riveting discussions.

Oxford Bookstores, on the other hand, feel as the pulse of the reader changes with every year, constant upgrade in books and merchandise is essential. Having an award-winning online portal that has been in place for twelve years speaks for itself. The famous Cha Bar and 92-year-old-legacy of the store perpetuate each other with oodles of panache, chatter
and variety.

With all this in tow, the bookstore could definitely seem to be a welcoming place especially after the shindigs of New Year’s Eve. Be it the excitement of smelling a new book or the thrall of flicking the pages on your latest iPad, it’s safe to predict that 2013’s resolution can border on that of being a couch potato of a different kind.  

Book these facts
>> Flipkart has sold 7,50,000 titles in India in a short span of two years.
>> India is the third largest publishing country in the English-speaking world.
>> Oxford Bookstore’s first outlet in India was started in Kolkata, 80 years ago, on Park Street.
>> Strand Book Stall’s 700 sq feet space houses over a lakh titles.
>> Landmark claims to have India’s largest book catalogue as well as an e-reader app.
>> Regional titles at Crossword have seen a surge of 30%.

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