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Bestsellers again

Before the advent of the one-stop-shop mega bookstore, bookshops were personal affairs, with distinct personalities. From the choice of books to its décor, everything was shaped by one deeply involved mind, reports Manoj Sharma.

delhi Updated: Dec 27, 2008 23:33 IST
Manoj Sharma

Remember You've Got Mail, the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan romantic comedy? In the movie, Kathleen Kelly (Ryan), who runs a small bookstore called The Shop Around The Corner, finds herself fighting a losing battle against Fox Books, a chain of mega bookstores. But while Joe Fox (Hanks), heir to the Fox Books fortune, and Kelly eventually kiss and download their incognito chatroom romance into the real world, the picture is not so rosy for small bookstores here in the city.

Delhi’s 30-odd independent bookstores are facing stiff competition from the half-a-dozen chain stores like Oxford and Crossword.

Recently, Bookworm, which was a landmark in Connaught Place, downed shutters; The Book Shop in Khan Market had to relocate a couple of years ago because of spiralling rents. In Gurgaon, at least four bookstores shut shop in the last few years.

The stress on independent bookstores is not a local phenomenon. Around 300 of them shut down annually the world over. In many countries, communities are getting involved to prevent their closure. In the US, there is even talk of ‘bookstore tourism’. In Delhi, too, a number of independent bookstores are refusing to give up. They have reinvented themselves with added services like cafes. Here we profile three such independent bookstores determined to stay afloat.