Did you know Jesus lived in India? I would have not known this if I had not picked the book with the same name at Higginbothams, Chennai Airport. I cannot pass a bookstore without browsing it for a few moments at any airport. I like reading while travelling.
I must confess, I love shopping at the airport bookstores. I like to be surprised at bookstores. I have picked many books at Chennai, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Delhi airports. Bookstores across Indian airports do have usual and unusual, to travellers such self helps, those by the National Geographic Society and many unheard titles.
Traditionally, small and musty airport bookstores that stored the boring magazines and tourist guides are now replaced by Crossword, WH Smith, Higginbothams and Odyssey taking over these stores across India—from Mumbai and Delhi to smaller cities of Panjim and Ahmedabad. Airport bookstores are such places where you get to find captive audience. Not just books, but my favorite cupcakes, muffins, and cheese cakes are also from the airport eateries. Airport bookstores also sell more glossy magazines than city ones. I have seen men buying Femina, Mills and Boons, Chicken soup series for their air read and women buying GQ, Auto Car India. Apart from this the kids buy colouring books, puzzles, fairy tales and even textbooks from these airport bookstores. Higginbothams airport store in Chennai has maximum copies of school textbooks than fiction or management.
I do have a habit of noticing people around me and whenever I travel by air, I do see my co-passengers body language very carefully and to be true I have found majority to be the show off’s. They buy books, magazines and newspapers, which are in fashion, put a fanciest book mark in the middle of the book pages so that everyone can see them reading, but in no time they doze off snoring. Poor pseudo intellectuals.
There are really very few may be less than 5 who sift through their paperbacks, while others scroll their eBook readers and tablets with a flick of a finger. Airport bookstores may be on the front lines of the transition to eBooks. Larger bookstore chains in the Airports now have a cafe too which gets in the younger crowd, who dont buy books but simply socialize. I have not got an opportunity yet to explore airports at Bengaluru, Kolkata, Lucknow, Jaipur or Chandigarh. Except Bengaluru and Kolkata which encourages a lot of regional literature I dont think any other city airports would have a bookstore in them. Airport bookstores create an inviting environment for potential readers, something that can help them grow from many part of the country. They provide an outline for an impulse purchase about a regional work if you are new to that city or would want to learn more.
Oh I’m still very optimistic. I believe the good books will sell and I think airport bookstores will be around for a while. I don’t support e-books and I don’t buy digital copies of books and magazines – despite owning latest reading gadgets and updated apps in it, so till people like me are alive, bookstores will survive.
I write a lot, which keeps me off the streets and out of trouble. There is always something to write about, always a new story to craft. Not writing, for me, is like trying to hold back a sneeze. Learning to write was the most powerful influence in my life. I can still remember the awe I felt when I realized I could put real words onto paper and tell out a story. From that first ‘a-ha’ moment I knew I wanted to write.
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