Online Reading Affecting Book Sales in Kashmir

   

Heeba Din & Uzma Manzoor

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Srinagar

As one enters through the heavy glass door of the Gulshan Book Store in Lal Chowk, the smell of books registers the mind of the entrant. Stacks of books, neatly kept in rows, from classics to contemporary to fiction, the shelves adorned with all kinds of books greet the eyes.

Sheikh Aijaz, owner of the book shop, says he has been in this business from past 60 years and has owned the shop for past 15years at the Srinagar’s elite residency road.

Talking about the readership and emerging book shops in vale, he said, “what we first lacked was a general book shop, as there was more inclination towards academic books only. Now as more and more general bookshops are opening up, the readership has increased. Availability has played a key role.”

Password – a wattan group enterprise has made a good name for itself among the readers for past 4-5 years. Imtiyaz Ahmad the manager of the shop says, the books like Curfewed Night, The Collaborator, Until My Freedom Has Come and other books on Kashmir’s contemporary history have generated more readership than other books.

Last year in June, the national book fair, comprising of nearly 119 stalls, was organized by National Book Trust of India in collaboration with Jammu and Kashmir Academy for Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL) and Urdu Academy in the premises of SP College.

The General secretary of Kashmir Book Suppliers and Publishers Association, Mir Ghulam Muhammad said that, “we received a so-so response during the fair, it was a failure in the sense that people who are fond of reading couldn’t even come to attend the fair due to a lot loopholes on behalf of organizing authority.” posing a big question on readership in Kashmir.

When asked about the failure of National book fair, which took place last year in June ,he said  it was due to lack of publicity and  choice of venue which led to the failure of the book fair.

Its worth mentioning that bookshops like Password and Gulshan books, mostly cater to those, who can afford to buy the paperback edition of books  but there is a large section of readers who have switched to reading books online .

According to the experts, since internet services arrived in the vale, the readers have changed their reading preferences from traditional book reading to online reading.

One of the vale’s most premier news agency, Khan news agency who has been in this business for last 30 years, shares the same view.

Hilal Ahmad the owner of the agency said, “Earlier I used to sell about 1000 copies of various magazines but now the same has declined to mere 50 copies.” This, he said, is the direct result of e-Reading, “Although the old readers are still sticking to the traditional book reading but the younger generation mostly prefers reading e-books, the only exception being the competitive books.”

Mir Ghulam Muhammad, general secretary of Kashmir Book Suppliers and Publishers Association, presented the stark reality by saying book trade has almost vanished. “There is almost a 60% decrease in book demand.” He stressed that though e-books have their own advantage but people should not forget the culture of traditional book reading.

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