We have online retail giants like Amazon and Flipkart that sells products on a large scale, books being one of them. These giants sell books for business. But have you shopped books from your local independent bookstores yet? Local independent bookstores sell books that they curate themselves. They know the books, the authors and they have genuine interest in selling books. They themselves are lover of books and curate their own book lists. Independent local bookstores are integral to the local community. They are one of the platforms in directly serving the community and the individual. Their existence is advantageous. They support the key principles of establishing local businesses. Above all, they work towards the growing of the local economy. If you shop local, you’re supporting your local economy and hence a better economic growth of your local community.
UKIYO BOOKSTORE, IMPHAL – A pristine bookstore which recently got expanded runs along the busy Sega Road in Imphal. Its owner Martin Thokchom who is a post-graduate in English from Delhi University runs this bookstore day in and day out. Having spent a decade in the capital — a place so well-equipped with the country’s finest independent booksellers and second-hand book markets, owning a bookstore had always been on his mind. Circumstances made him drop the initial plan of becoming a college professor and instead made him pursue a career in bookselling business.
“When I first started out, there were very less independent bookstores in Manipur that catered to non-academic books. That was also one of the main reasons why I wanted to start one. Now in our bookstore, we have a wide range of fiction and non-fiction titles including local, national and world literature. The future is definitely not bright but at the same time not bleak because no matter what there will always be people who would love to enter a bookstore and get lost in the world of books instead of buying everything with the touch of a finger. There is something about small independent bookstores that digital platforms can never replace”, says Martin Thokchom.
Being a book seller he enjoys the endless conversations about books and how they impacted their lives with the customers. “I have learnt so much about everything including life, ever since I started my bookstore.”
With online retail giants making business every day, it sure do is a huge challenge for independent bookstores. Nonetheless, facing obstacles and huge challenges are what make this bookstore unique. “I feel that we should never try to compete with the big online players when it comes to offering discounts. We should be unique in our own ways and do what we are best at, and people will keep coming steadily. The relationship we have with our customers is something the Amazons and Flipkarts can never have”, says a hopeful Thokchom.
Ukiyo Bookstore is in its second year of business. Ukiyo has had the opportunity to conduct its first Ukiyo literature festival in October 2019. The festival had notable authors in attendance like Jerry Pinto, Mamang Dai, Easterine Kire and several publishers. The literature festival was attended by people from all over the state. Ukiyo Bookstore has online portal via its Instagram page and ships all over India.
“A local bookstore plays a huge role in developing the reading culture in a community. It is the place where most readers including the young ones will have the accessibility to explore different kinds of books spanning through various genres. Running an independent bookstore is a daunting task and one can never thrive without the support of the community.”
PAPER PLANES BOOKSTORE/ LIBRARY, LAMKA – Paper Planes is a spacious bookstore and library located in College Street, New Lamka in Churachandpur district. Paper Planes Bookstore was launched in 2017 by Siam Khuptong. Till date, Paper Planes have over hundred registered library members who visit on a regular basis.
“Success is a relative term and we would like to measure our success in terms of the impact we have in the community and not just financially. We have seen gradual increase in the number of book readers in the town and we would like to take partial credit for the same. Its feel great to see book reading culture thriving in a small town like ours”, Siam Khuptong expresses in delight.
For Khuptong who has been selling books for the past three years, it’s like Christmas for him every time new books arrive. He loves talking to his customers and recommending them books that they were previously unaware of. “Customers ending up loving my book recommendations are one of the best feelings a book seller could ever have”, beams Khuptong.
Paper Planes also specializes in selling used books to provide readers with half the printed price or less on the book. Paper Planes hopes to continue book selling as long as it can. It has online shopping facility via Instagram and ships all over India.
“Paper Planes sincerely believe that no place worth’s its salt is complete without a bookstore. It is a place where young minds are nurtured and veterans come to hang out. It fosters an atmosphere that is conducive to learning all the while inspiring everyone that walks into one to become better versions of them.”