If you love the smell of a new book better than perfumes, and your friends like calling you ‘bookworm’ then book-stores are always a treat for you. Some book-stores are so unique that they are becoming a destination in themselves. With rich histories, unique collections, and high popularity, they have built themselves to be cultural institutions in cities across the country.
Test of time
Founded in 1844, Higginbothams on Chennai’s Anna Salai Road is considered to be one of the country’s oldest surviving book-stores. Kitab Khana in Mumbai, on the other hand, is housed inside a 150-year-old heritage building. “Higginbothams has a brilliant collection of books nearly two centuries of old – several first and rare editions, historic maps and many out-of-print books,” says Prasad, a book lover from Chennai.
Reshma Thakur, from Mumbai, loves spending her free time at Kitab Khana. She says, “Apart from the large collection of books from across language and genre, the in-store café is a further delight and a perfect place to get some reading done. I also love the interior of the store as there are plenty of quiet corners to browse a book before buying.”
“I love a book-store which takes an effort to stock books beyond the usual set that you will find in every store,” says Ram Sarangan, a journalist. His favourite Blossom Book House is one of Bangalore’s beloved second-hand book-stores. The shelves stock obscure Sanskrit dictionaries, old books of sheet music, travelogues, and rare comic books. One can also find posters of upcoming plays, festivals, and workshops on the wall next to the staircase. “It helps you remember why we still need bookshops and Kindle can never replace the nostalgic smell associated with real books,” he adds.
Crossword at Kemps Corner, Mumbai can easily take the position of the city’s most popular book-store. The store has an impressive collection of books, spanning across regional and foreign languages and ranging from the latest fiction and non-fiction bestsellers to an impressive children’s book collection. “It encompasses almost all genres of reader, plus the comfort of settling down right in the store and enjoying a good whiff before we can make a purchase. The in-store Café Moshe not only has the aromas of good food but also books, making the entire experience divine,” says Nabonita Acharya, a student from Mumbai.
When it comes to comfort, Oxford Bookstore in Parkstreet, Kolkata is also a good choice, feels Pritika Datta, a journalist based in Kolkata. “I like it because it is laid out nicely and it is easy to browse through. It has a ‘homey’ atmosphere too, with chairs and a café. There are lots of friendly clerks, and plenty of books to peruse at your leisure,” she adds.
Trilogy, a brilliantly-curated library for books in Lower Parel, is a pretty great space for book-lovers to be in. The space is divided – the first two-three rows are part of the book-store, and the rest belong to the library. Ahalya Naidu Momaya, co-founder Trilogy, says, “We do not encourage the idea of pushing only bestsellers or popular books, so we do not have a section of top books. We have regular members and patrons who share their reading experiences with us.”
Not just a well-stocked but a well-organised book-store is also in demand. “I like Starmark, South City Mall, Kolkata because it is well-organised despite of the large collection of books,” claims Pritika. “It is better when the staffs actually read books and can offer good suggestions. If I am looking for a specific book, even when I can’t remember the author’s name or the name of the book, when I describe it – they know it,” she adds.
Gautam Jatia, CEO Starmark, explains, “We have a cross section of publishers and titles, and imported imprints for the book lovers. The stores are designed in such a way that it sports an international look and feel. We have paid minute attention to make our customers’ visits to our stores appealing and friendly.”
Aleem Uddin Siddiqui, PR Manager of Om Book Shop, emphasises, “To ensure that a customer spends quality time at our book-stores, we have created spaces and little corners where readers can indulge and spend hours on end, browsing through the pages of their favourite books and selected titles.”
Some book-stores understand the need to go beyond books to bring the readers together. To encourage automatic repeat buying, several book-stores provide book-of-the-month clubs. “We invite young and self-published authors for events, seminars and book signing sessions and discussions,” affirms Aleem.
“Being a regular customer at Kitab Khana, I get a notification whenever there is a book event organised at Kitab Khana. Thanks to its location and its old-school vibe, it commands a loyal fan following,” says Reshma.
Time to go indulge the book-lover within you!