A few clicks, and you are living an easy life! This is the scenario ruling our market today. From an infant’s diapers to a homemaker’s mixer-juicer-grinder, a good part of the urban population is now resorting to online stores for these necessities. And why won’t they? We always prefer to pick an easier way to get our work done. Whether it’s shopping or anything for that matter. Moreover, to people in small towns, online stores provide more and often, better options.
While with products like electronic goods or clothes, there is a risk of receiving flawed pieces, it’s rare in case of books. And lesser in case of e-books. Comparative to the price of books in any bookstore around your city, the online prices always win, since they are mostly cheaper. And with many sites excluding the delivery charges over a limit, paperback lovers find online book shopping a boon. What fuels this trend more is better availability of books online. You can always switch sites in case any of them is short on stock, much easier and less time consuming than what happens offline. And if that’s not enough, we have the storm of e-books, trying its best to wipe out the existence of living bookstores.
Enters irony. Quiz any book lover and you’ll conclude that their heart still goes out to those stacks of books lined up from top to bottom, in brick-walled stores rather than the virtual one. You ask them for a quick opinion and they won’t stop until they have described the fervent zeal they feel going through those books. They don’t mind giving hours of their time if it means coming out with a bag of the best reads. They love the smell of pages over online texts. Anytime. Just a few weeks back, it so happened that I had to take an unplanned tour around the book shops in my city to pick novels to gift my Professors. The fact that our tastes most probably differed, selecting the best was a mammoth task. But perhaps for the first time it didn’t strain me much. I was visiting a bookstore after more than 6 months. And even though Varanasi is seeing me since 8 years, there were stores I never visited. I’d cross them plenty of times, but never actually knocked their doors. Yes, I too am a victim of internet lure. And that day, as I spent those hours fishing for books, many of them wearing out yearning for buyers, I realised the doom such heavenly abode of words might soon have to face. I missed being in such places. Most of these shops, I have known, are still standing mostly at the mercy of foreign tourists, who never forget to pay a visit. Or else they are sharing their space with coffee shops, attempting to tempt readers.
Now, I won’t go on condemning the trend of online shopping. Change is inevitable. And to keep pace with time, we are doing no wrong resorting to an easier way. As a friend of mine, a keen reader, responded “I’d prefer a bookstore any day but online stores do have their own benefits, like for any other product. It’s just like comparing e-books and paperbacks. While both are great at their own places, it can’t be said that one is leading to the demise of other.” We still have people swarming in bookstores at the time of a new release, and in a larger number when there is a fair. Hopefully, the number retains, enough to keep these stores going, and the coming generation gets to see how books look as they stand lavishly on the racks in huge number.