Book sales go up, but fairs lose to ecommerce
The twenty-four-year-old Kaveri Singh, a BTech graduate, was at the Delhi Book fair to look for study material that would help her prepare for the civil services examination that she intended to sit for. A book fair loyalist, she visits it every year. But, this year, though she did plan to pick up a book or two, she felt online book-selling portals suited her requirements better. 'The range of available books is as varied online as at the book fair, and the deals I get there are much better. Very few stalls at the book fair are offering any discount,' said Singh.
Though the feel of thumbing through a book before buying it and the smell of new books continue to draw book lovers to book fairs, be it in any city, online portals are emerging as a dependable option for many. For one, you can save on the time spent on visiting a book store, bazaar or fair. Just a click of the mouse from the comfort of your office or home would do the job.
However, there are reasons why a book-lover will still visit a book stall. 'When I was in Mumbai I would visit the pavement book sellers in Churchgate and I love going to the Sunday Book Bazaar here in Delhi. I don't mind a second-hand book as long as I get a good deal. I want to go to the Delhi Book Fair, but yes, if I see a book I like, I would definitely compare the price on Flipkart or Amazon immediately, and if it is available at a cheaper rate online, I wouldn't buy it from the fair,' explained Arshad Said Khan, a PhD candidate at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
This is the reason, perhaps, that while organisers said the number of visitors on the first Sunday after the opening of the book fair on 1 September reached 50,000, Shakti Malik, honorary treasurer of the Federation of Indian Publishers, said that on that very day, sales at his stall were worth only Rs 1,200. 'I publish books for research and libraries. A single book at my store may cost Rs 4,000. How many people will be able to spend that amount of money on books,' he questioned, adding, 'Fiction, bestsellers, self-help books and textbooks for students are more in demand.'
Pratap Publishers offered a massive 50 per cent discounts on Harry Potter titles. They also had encyclopedias and dictionaries at heavily discounted prices. Nanda Book Service had special counters where any book could be bought for Rs 100, Rs 50 or Rs 20 each. These two stalls were among those doing brisk business.
But the Book Fair, said Malik, was more than just a business platform. 'There are not very many bookstores in Delhi. Land prices are so high, that opening bookstores are not an economically viable option. The book fair gives much-needed exposure to publishers,' he said.
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