From Books to Online Nothingness? Delhi Streetsellers Face Digital Onslaught
But bookworms say they’re just the same
NEW DELHI: Gone are the days that people used to visit bookstores and buy books - many have now succumbed to doing most of their reading online. There has been a swift decline in book sales, and among the most affected are the booksellers on Delhi streets with no fixed source of revenue.
“I’ve been working here the past 15 years,” says Chandresh Kumar Singh aka Panditji, a bookseller at the Old Delhi Railway Station. “Earlier 70% of the people coming here would buy books or least a newspaper. But with the growth of the internet they are able to read everything online. It has shrunk our business. There are days when we don’t have a single customer.”
He adds that he always enjoyed his work: people would come to his stall, browse through the collection and have conversations with him about the latest books and news. His shop was a place where people gathered and talked, and now it’s all gone, together with the fervour for books.
Panditji’s bookshop was so famous once, he says, that people from Old Delhi would come just to keep tabs on the latest stock of books he had acquired. Today he sees entire days with no customers.
“I never thought that sales of books could come down, as reading books is so important to any form of education. We agree that technology is a boon and acts nowadays as a catalyst for change, but it has significantly diminished our work. We see no future in this trade. More and more people are changing their mode of reading,” says a street bookseller at Connaught Place.
Most of his customers just look at the books, ask the price and then leave, he says. They don’t want to invest in hard copies when they can get the same, or almost the same information online.
“I am planning to run some eatery now instead, as sales of books have reduced significantly. Selling books requires a lot of hard work, you need to come and arrange them all, and if it’s the rainy season it becomes even worse with no shelter,” says Shankar, a street bookseller at the Noida Sector 16 metro station.
But bookworms don’t feel that digital technology has affected their purchases or love of reading in any way.
“Books have always been close to my heart, I feel a sense of empowerment when I get to read books of my own choice. In fact, I love to collect different books by different authors,” says Hiteshika Dua, a student at NIIFT.
“I love reading books as it gives me a new perspective to look at things,” says Manju Kapoor, a teacher at Lovely Public School.
“And I prefer to read paper copies. Firstly, I am not tech savvy. Second, I love collecting books on my shelf so I can revisit them whenever I want.”