Galgotia’s, a quaint bookstore covered from the floor to the ceiling with more than 50,000 books encompassing all genres, is a bibliophile’s dream come true. Hidden away in a basement in sector 18, the store wasn’t always this small. One of the oldest book stores in Noida, Galgotia’s opened its doors on 10th February 1999 and occupied three floors of the same complex. Now, the complex houses a jewellery store at the top while the book store has shifted to the basement.
Galgotia’s isn’t the only book store in the city that is going through a bad phase. Pages, another old bookshop in Noida, shut shop a couple of years ago adding to the list of book stores that have either had to downsize or shut down in the city.
Narayan Jha (51) has been working at Galgotia’s since it was established in 1999. “The store opened up on 10th February and I started work here on March 20th1999. A lot has changed from then till now,” Jha says. He attributes this trend to online shopping and to a change in the reading habits especially of the younger generation. “Earlier people would come and spend hours browsing through books, now they want everything instantly and online shopping platforms have become the popular choice,” says Jha, who can tell you the exact location of any book in the store from memory.
Manoj Saxena, the owner of Libra Book shop situated in Atta Market in sector 27, which sells school and college books in addition to fiction novels, also complains of how the online platforms have made life difficult for independent bookstores. “This shop has been here for about a decade now but recently the boom of online shopping has hit the business hard,” Saxena says.
Heavy discounts are one of the main reasons why people are turning to digital platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart. “Earlier I used to frequent bookstores on an almost daily basis, now I just shop online. Its very easy and cheap and they deliver right to your doorstep. Even for my kids, I prefer shopping for books online as its hassle free,” says Reena Chadha, a resident of sector 44 and mother of two.
Capitalising on this trend and moving ahead with the needs of the times, bigger chain stores such as Om Book stores, which has two branches in Noida in Great India Place and Mall of India, have developed their own digital presence with their websites providing the option to place orders online but due to lack of funding and resources, independent bookshops have failed to do the same.
“There is no price regulation in our business… there is no union looking after our interests and these online shopping portals provide discounts that are hard for us to match,” says Jha.
Prince Book Shop, a small shop in the bylanes sector 27 market, which specializes in selling old books at discounted rates, has been around for more than nine years. “The shop has seen a huge dip in business in past couple of years. The number of customers that frequent the shop now is roughly 40% of the original consumer base when the shop started,” says owner Sanjay Kumar.
Even on a Sunday, these book stores wear a deserted look with the number of people working at the shops outnumbering the customers. “Even when the store was suffering losses, we have continued to run the shop in the hope that things will turn around. But finally we had to downsize three years ago,” says Jha.
Owing to nostalgia, the store continues to have a small but loyal group of customers who visit the store with their families and introduce their children to their old book haunt. “We have around 200 ‘Galgotia fans’ who are well placed in life now but make it a point to come visit their favourite book store. I might not remember their names but I will never forget their faces,” says Jha.