Saturday, 28 August 2004


I spend a lot of time browsing through bookstores. Ive done this all over, whichever city I have spent more than a day in, with perhaps an evening free.

Some bookstores are nice, some are comfy, some have character, some are cold. Some are just sinply bookstores, nothing more, nothing less. A lot depends on the owner/manager of bookstores.

Ive been to small round the corner bookstores where the owner is a cranky old man, who looks at you like you are asking for secret documents of the CBI each time you request any book. Then there are the big chain stores which are still comfy because the management has realised you need to make your customer feel at home in a bookstore.

Ive been to Om Books in Gurgaon. The owner there was a young kid but he knew his books and so did his staff. Most of them were hindi speaking, but one of them even engaged me in an intelligent discussion on nietzche (in Hindi) when I requested a book of his. Their recommendations were usually good and I did pick up a lot of good books based on what they suggested. I picked up 'Da Vinci Code' because of them, over a year and a half ago, before it exploded on the literary scene. Yes, Om Books had staff who enjoyed the books as much as their customers if not more.

Gurgaon also has this little nook n corner kind of place. I think it is 'pens & pads' or 'quills n canvas' at the Galleria. this lady had an amazing stock of books for kids. And it was the easiest place to pick up a gift for the kids of the hosts who had invited me to dinner.

Crossword at Bangalore is over 1500 sq ft and a place I visit at least once as I travel through this city. Its a good place to go when you have some time to kill. They have a couple of leather seats that you can bag, if you are lucky. You can pick up a book, and curl up on the chair for the whole day and read. The staff is very friendly and let you be as long as you want. You can even sit on the mats in the children section and browse through as many comic books as you like. Which reminds me, have you read the new phantom comics ? I hate the feel of the pages. Nothing beats the feel of those rs1.25 comics with their colors and drawings. The cartoons at the back, Henry, the little king... Though not glossy, they were so much easier on the eye to read.

Strand at Manipal centre in Bangalore, is a good place to go in case you are looking for a difficult to find book. They almost always have a sale so you are sure to get some amount of discount on your purchases.

Theres this old man in his quaint book store on Church street, with books piled all higgledy piggledy like the towers of Sauron after a couple of attacks launched on it. But its amazing just for its atmosphere. I think its called the 'premier book shop' the shop is over 30 years old and Mr. Shanbhag the owner is a charming man who knows his books.

There's another very charming and courteous old man on 1 of the roads off Commercial street. He runs more of a library than a book shop, but often sells some of the books at reduced prices. If you take the time to talk to him, he will regale you with some old stories and chai. Downside being, his major stock comprises of romance novels for college girls who are his biggest clientele.

I hate Gangarams. They might have the biggest collection in Bangalore, but they also have the worst attitude. The staff does their best to brush you off, if you happen upon any of them in the first place.

Landmark at the Forum has the hugest collection I think, but again minimum warmth, they arent rude,. Its just difficult to find someone to help you and they dont know much themselves and spend another 10-15 minutes trying to locate someone who does.

Higginbothams is ok. But you are forever bumping into another shopper. That doesnt make for a pleasant experience at all when shopping for books. Makes you feel like you are shopping for vegetables in Chandni Chowk.

Bombay, I heard Crossword closed down at Crossroads in Worli. Not too sure about this info. But my favourite place for book browsing are the streets in Fort area. They are second hand books but you often chance upon some gems. The possibility of getting a "find" in Bombay is much higher than any other city, I have found. Could be the number of professionals around who have to keep moving from city to city and sell away their old books during the move.

At Hyderabad, I adored Kadambi at SD road near clock tower. But cant seem to find him now. He has moved and Ive still not been able to find where he has moved to. His family had the shop for generations but he was forced to vacate so MCH could widen the road. Another cultural victim to development.

Odyssey is a good store. The staff is friendly, polite, unobtrusive, yet omniprescent in case you need some help. They may not have the widest selection. and a special order you place may never arrive from the mother store in Chennai but that pales in comparison to the friendly service and the permanent 10% discount that members get on any purchase from the store, books, magazines, stationery, gift items. Then of course there r the frequent user points. But Ive already spoken about that in a previous post.

Crossword in Hyderbad is too small. Barely the size of their childrens section in bangalore. So number of titles available is much lower. Though the service is polite, its normally left to 1 woman who has to man (/woman) the cash counter too. Its location within shoppers stop ensures, a lot of mothers send their kids there to keep them occupied with the maids in tow, but the kids being the fun factory kind, would rather be on the 5th floor than the ground, so u can imagine the ruckus they create. (which reminds me, I have to write a vent on mothers who bring their maids to mind their kids wherever they go)

Walden has the largest collection but the scarcest staff. Posters and banners sternly declare: "Reading magazines in the store is not allowed." I havent seen them enforce this, but the posters are enough to leave a bad taste. I havent had much success rordering books from here either. My conclusion is that its just a scam, u can place as many orders for unavailable books as you want, the books will only come in when the bookstore owner/manager wants them to.

Chennai has Crossword, Landmark, Walden and Odyssey which r kind of like their sister concerns in the other cities.

Tell me what u think ? Which book stores do YOU like ? N why ? Feel free to disagree with me.

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