Good news for Capital’s bookworms: Bookstores will deliver to your doorstep amid lockdown 3.0
Do you remember the last time you went to your favourite neighbourhood bookshop, leisurely scanned through the shelves and retreated to your corner with a book? The silence only broken by the turning of pages or the purring of the owner’s cat? They say reminiscing won’t bring the past back, but a bit of logistical support, a government order, and a whole lot of love has revived independent book stores in the Capital. After certain relaxations in lockdown norms, some bookstores have started home delivery of books and are opening for certain hours through the day.
“We are opening on alternate days for now. The response has been phenomenal and we have received orders from within and outside Delhi,” said an employee at The Bookshop in Jor Bagh. “We weren’t prepared for so many calls! It was very heartening. We sold approximately 450 books — both deliveries and in-store purchases — from our Greater Kailash store in one day,” said Priyanka Malhotra, director, Full Circle Bookstore.
At Midland Book Shop in Hauz Khas, Mirza Afsar Baig has seen the tides change many times since he opened the shop in 1973. “I never had any business sense. I am happy that the people are back and are meeting each other again at my shop. We get around 60-65 customers every day and we ensure that they are wearing masks,” he says. The store is open between 11am-6pm, but also takes orders on Whatsapp, which it delivers with the help of a delivery partner. “We have offered 20% discount on books, and the delivery charge by the partner is paid by the customer,” Baig explains.
Since this is a first time for these bookstores in the deliveries market, teething problems are bound to surface. “The courier services are very expensive at the moment so we are giving the choice to the customer to bear the overcharge. Wherever possible, we are subsidising the courier charges. Within 10km of Jor Bagh, we are using our own car to make deliveries,” informs The Bookshop.
This development also comes with a set of health risks, but they are mindful of the safety measures. “Every (Full Circle) bookstore is sanitized five times a day and we only allow two people inside at a time for approximately 15-20 minutes. No one can come in without a mask. We have a guard at the door with sanitizer for people coming in,” says Priyanka.
Adapting to the new normal and faring against e-commerce giants, Rajni Bahri Malhotra, of Bahrisons, says, “The independent bookseller is still willing to go out of his way and cater to your needs. My staff is amazing — one person is answering the calls, another is taking orders on the messaging platform WhatsApp . Orders are consolidated upon checking our stock. Online payments need to be managed. The books are packaged and handed over to the delivery boys, and a route is charted for them because they can’t make multiple trips. It’s like a small assembly line. But they are thrilled to be back.” Logistically, there have been certain limitations. “Our delivery partner does not cover all of Delhi. Public transport is not available, limiting our staff’s movement,” she adds.+ +
The stores plan to make the best of the times and envision a future with social distancing. The Bookshop, which has been around for over 50 years, places faith in the physical act of interacting over books at a store. “There was a time when e-commerce markets were a novelty, but now we see a lot of our customers have come back,” their employee adds. “The mindsets are going back to the times where we didn’t rely on algorithms to tell us what we should read. It has been a reminder of how important places of community are,” concludes Priyanka.
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