HYDERABAD: Internet penetration is complete in the twin cities. Anyone with a broadband connection can download books online or if some books are not available for free, order it online. For a discount at that. If one is uncomfortable reading online, e-readers are available aplenty in the market. So, why bother to go to bookstores?
The question, on the face of it, sounds sensible. The reality, though, is a bit different. Going by the turnout at the ongoing Hyderabad Book Fair and what the owners of the various stalls have to say, it seems the feel, touch and the smell of books haven’t lost their charm yet.
“We face competition from online book stores and ebooks. But the competition is not yet threatening,” says Hamid, owner of the Great Book House Stall. His view is echoed by many others. Says Ramesh, a corporate employee who is a regular at the Book Fair, “Nothing can beat the touch, feel and smell of a new volume.”
But as Hamid says most of the people who come are not avid book readers. “Nowadays, people buy books just of the authors they have heard of. There are many books which are very good and written in a beautiful language on diverse topics but they are not bought just because they are not famous. There are very few book connoisseurs,” he regrets. This is a view which many publishers share.
However, Vidya Shankar of Orient Blackswan points at a new trend. “The demand for books on topics related to social sciences is increasing as people are becoming aware of various issues and want to know more. A few years back, this was not the trend. What is also noteworthy is that, in this world of cartoons, video games and internet, children’s books are doing brisk business.”
There are an array of book stalls not just from Hyderabad but from other places in Andhra Pradesh as well as from Delhi which have many children’s books at the fair.
Sudhir, incharge of the Amar Chitra Katha stall, says that children are very much interested in buying these books and Tinkle is an evergreen magazine. As there are many cartoons on Amar Chitra Katha charaters, the children are interested in these books, he adds.