Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hello Bookstore

I went to a bookstore after a longish while. Though once upon a time if you asked me where I would like to spend my time - the answer was inevitably, book store. But these days, especially after Flipkart, I dont visit book stores too often. First you to to drive, then find parking and all in all it becomes quite a carbon intensive book. Even if take a book, it is just not worth it to go all the way for a book. But this time, I had a gift voucher to use so I thought, this would be a good time to catch up on some books.

I had to go away from my house – nearly a 40 minute trip to reach the place and while the place had a lot of books, it did not have what I was looking for. Being different and Breaking India both by Rajiv Malhotra. I have read the former and thought it will be nice to add it to my collection. Having read it, I wanted to read the latter, but it was out of stock. My trip seemed to be a waste. So I mindlessly browsed through the space and my way of buying books is a little different. That made it all the more difficult to for me enjoy the process.

But I finally found one book which I thought I might be interested and then walked around a little more searching for some music and some other things.  A good hour later, I saw my shopping basket and it looked I had curated a bunch of items (except for the book) which I really did not need. Sigh.

Finally, I got something which I had wanted for a long time – a nice toy which I thought me and the little one would enjoy building. So much for serendipity.

So, what can a store do, really?

Well, lots if you ask me.

For one, almost all books on sale were sad books which no one would read.

Second, there was no search function. If I had to search, I had to walk up the helpdesk and converse with some disinterested assistants who were happier in their own conversations. And the machine that hosted the search was running at a glacial pace.

The staff were barely knowledgeable – this I understand – to staff book stores with people passionate about books is not easy – perhaps they think costs would go through the roof. But why not hire college interns or retirees – who are knowledgeable and pay them in books – atleast for the stores busy season – which I presume is weekends.

Why not hold up other bestsellers list than their own? Why not a bestsellers list for teens, women, boys, kids and what not? Why should the stores be themed by section? Why not in some other way? Why not have a corner where people pick books they thought they liked and did not buy – I think this will be really interesting corner. Create a small reading section? With coffee?

Well, I know…book stores wont survive in the current milieu for long but they can be reinvented for sure! Ask me!

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