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Welcome to Bookistaan

Bookistaan is India’s first recommendations based online children’s bookstore

As a small town bookstore, we have an inclination towards Indian publishing and writing, that hasn’t been able to find the routes into smaller towns. We believe it’s important for children to be exposed to their own literature for them to grow into empathetic individuals, proud of their own roots.

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9AM-6PM Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India +91 9711541107 [email protected]
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Save The Book Store

A chat with the Literati Bookshop and Cafe, Goa

Bringing warmth to the city of cool, this the story of Literati Bookshop and Cafe based in Goa.

How was Literati Bookshop and Cafe born? Tell us your story?
Literati Bookshop began in November 2005. The idea was to have a Bookshop Cafe where people could enjoy the experience. And also to have a space which would be creative and open to literary and cultural events for the
community.

Most bookstores have a niche, what’s yours?
Literature both Indian and international is our niche.

What makes your bookstore different?
Our Bookshop is in a portion of an old Portuguese styled Goan house, more than a hundred years old. We have a selection of New and Second hand books across a variety of genres. We have comfortable seating arrangements where one can browse
through your favorite books at leisure. We have Frida our pet Labrador, who is loved by one and all. We are surrounded by a beautiful and tranquil garden with a cafe. This takes you away from the crowds even though we are centrally located at Calangute.

You also deal in antiquarian books? Tell us a little about that? How do you acquire them? How’s the response?
Over the years we have built up an extensive patronage and some of our customers sell or give their old books to us. We also source antiquarian books from the outside world. The response is from collectors mainly.

What kind of events do you hold at the store? What’s the response like, how much do you think events like these help in a driving a culture for the arts?
We have hosted a wide range of events from Book Launches to Workshops on Self Defense for women. Every event brings in a new group of people to our Bookshop, thus putting them in touch with the books on a variety of genres, which definitely helps in promoting art and culture.

How does Goa being a tourist destination effect your business? How is it as a market?
A tourist destination is a good place to have a Bookshop like ours. People have a lot of time to sit down and browse through all their favorite and new authors, away from the bustle of their daily lives. This is definitely good for our business.

How difficult do you think the digital revolution has made things for the business? How have you been coping?
Digital revolution has been a challenge for us. But this generation still has book lovers who love the feel of a book.

What do you think the future holds for independent bookstores?
As long as book lovers who love the feel of a book are around we will survive.

Did you have a favorite bookstore growing up? You can even share a memory that you hold dear.
Premier Bookshop in Bangalore was my favourite while growing up.

Lastly, 5 books you would recommend to all your readers?
Current Reccomendations:
Born A Crime
In Hot Blood
The Sellout
The River of Smoke
Ravan and Eddie

Pagdandi-Cafe-Pune

Story of the Bookstore – Pagdandi Cafe, Pune

Pagdandi Cafe in Pune like its name offers a different route of lifestyle for its audience. Founded by Vishal and Neha, it started as a platform to bring people together to share ideas, opinions and of course books! It has now evolved into a creative, open minded space that aims to make its people more conscious of the world around them and gives them a sense of belonging. Here’s their story, their thoughts:

Every bookstore has a story, what’s yours? How was Pagdandi born?

Pagdandi started with a yearning for a sense of community for us. We are both travelers and as travelers you are in a different mind zone altogether, you get used to being on your own but at the same time you learn to strike a random conversation with a stranger. When we settled we realized the city offers a lot of restrictions and we wanted to recreate a free, creative space where people could come together, discuss things important to them with strangers and be themselves without any restrictions. And that’s how Pagdandi started. Since books mean a lot to us, reading naturally became the focal point for this community. We started as a reading room/library in 2013 and eventually it became a lot more.

You’ve described Pagdandi as a concept book cafe, exactly what does it mean? 

Now Pagdandi has become a space where people come spend their time as they like it, one can find people to engage in a debate here as well as a quite space to read uninterrupted. We have a bookstore section, as well as a library section where members can issue books. We also keep a lot of merchandise which is again recycled and up-cycled crafts handicrafts from around the country. We focus on merchandise that is environment friendly. And of course there’s the cafe. We are situated in an area that has a lot of students and youngsters are living on there own and I guess these people shared our want of belongingness. We think for them Pagdandi has become a home away from home. We’ve been told by people that we are the reason they don’t want to move locations and that means a lot to us because it’s like we’ve managed to do what we started out with. So all in all we are reading space, a bookstore, a cafe, a community that invites and promotes revolutionary thinking and discusses social issues, a library and a platform that promotes environmentally conscious art from around the country.

A lot of bookstores have a focus when it comes to their list, do you also have an inclination towards a certain audience?

We have a lot of independent Indian publishers like Tulika, Katha, Tara, Eklavya etc. We are the only bookstore in the city giving these publishers a platform. Our list is very diverse and we hand pick every title that we keep. So we’ll have children’s books, as well as politically radical books, regional books, books on feminism etc. It’s important to us to believe in what we are displaying so our list is as curated as can be.

Pagdandi Cafe, Pune

 

You also organize a lot of book events, tell us  little about them?Do you think these events and the cafe help the bookstore sustain?

We do book events and author events occasionally but we do a lot more than that. We do a lot of discussions and activist events like we did an event on Menstrual waste disposal, we did an event about Tibet’s occupation by China and how it has affected the life of the natives. We believe in doing events that have the power to awaken our audience, to make people more conscious citizens of the world. That’s the kind of events we believe in.

The Cafe of course helps the bookstore survive but our events aren’t always about book promotion, so they don’t necessarily help sales.

How much, if at all, do you think the digital revolution has affected the business?

Of course, online portals have change the game entirely with heavy discounts but in a way they have also coerced us into making changes. To compete with them we have to change our methods like we now offer a 15% discount on every sale, we are the only bookstore here doing that, but now the customer needs that kind of motivation. But what’s important is that people are reading. When it comes to books, however, I don’t see them going obsolete. Yes, Kindles are more convenient when you are traveling. it’s light, you can carry more books but the physical book has its own place in the heart of a reader, they offer a more personal connection.

When it comes to sales, I don’t think they’ve gone down. The way we see it, every portal that sells books is important for people to connect with books and has a place of its own. All of us need to be around and co exist in the eco system for books to find maximum reach. There’s more competition but eventually books are the winners and that’s most important.

Pagdandi Cafe, Pune

What’s the most popular genre at the store, or the most popular authors?

Reading interests today are very varied. Also I think they depend on the area, so in that sense we find management and self help books really popular among professionals. But we see classics and fiction doing just as well, poetry is an emerging genre, more people are taking interest in poetry. It’s difficult to pick one genre as most popular, the other day a mother walked into a bookstore who picked a children’s book and a self help book for herself. Lately, we’ve also seen translations and revolutionary writing become very popular, as well as travel and humor books.

What are the five books that you’d recommend to all your readers?

Both of us very different tastes when it comes to reading.

Vishal: My favorites would be Lord of the Rings
Paul Theroux
Amitav Ghosh’s The Hungry Tide
Arthur C Clarke and Asimov
H.G Wells

Neha: I’m more into feminism and women’s writing, so my favorites are:
Kamala Das
Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Ismat Chughtai
Anita Diamant

kahani and kitab

Here’s bringing to you the story of Kahani Tree, a children’s bookstore based in Mumbai. Founded by a fellow book lover, Sangeeta Bhansali, with the aim to find rare Indian treasures and share them with those who’d appreciate it. And you know what they say! Love grows with sharing!

Every bookstore has a story, what’s yours? How was Kahani Tree born?

In early 2006, I came across the wonderful range of children’s books published by Tulika in Chennai.  That’s when I realized that my sons–then 14 and 12 years –had grown up without seeing any Indian children’s books that were not about gods, goddesses and the Panchatantra! While their bookshelves were filled with wonderful books from all around the world, we barely had any multicultural books that told interesting stories about our people and our country.

In spite of frequenting bookstores in Mumbai, I realized that such books were just not available in our city. As a mother and a book-lover, I felt it was important for every child to have access to Indian stories and folk tales, as well as engaging story-books in Hindi and the regional languages, so that they were not growing up as strangers to their own culture.

As a publisher with Vakils, I understood the issues that other small independent publishers like us faced to make our books available in retail. So with Vakils’ support, Kahani Tree began with a curated selection of children’s books sourced from across the country. We promoted them by participating in school book-fairs, doing author events in schools and at literary festivals. Recently, we have expanded our little bookstore to carry a curated range of international picture and middle-grade books, too.

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You are a children’s bookstore with a special focus on Indian Publishing and writers, how easy or difficult has it been for you as a seller to find a place for these Indian titles in the India.

It has been an interesting journey!  When we started over a decade ago, Kahani Tree was showcasing a range of unique Indian children’s books that had barely been visible in Mumbai before.  And the reaction was always “Wow! Why haven’t we seen these books before! Where are they available?”

Now there is, clearly, a growing appreciation for every child to have access to a selection that has books that are both windows (that allow them to see the world and help to understand people whose lives were different from their own) and mirrors (that reflect their own realities and understand that there are others like themselves dealing with similar issues).

Kahani Tree promotes books that go beyond the ‘best-selling’ range that one sees in retail.  We are proud, though, that we do more than just sell books! Through school book fairs and author interactions, bookstore events and by participating in literary festivals in the city, we are happy to spread the joy of reading and books.

Bookstores have been struggling ever since the digital revolution swept the industry, how have you been coping?

Kahani Tree has grown slowly and organically, and we’ve happily attracted those customers that prefer the print format —those that love holding, touching and smelling books!  With children’s books, the reading levels and interests vary so much at every age, that it is important to enable customers to browse and understand the books before buying.

We also know our books well through careful selection and love recommending books, after understanding the customers’ interests.  Our sales have steadily increased over the years, but more than that, it’s been wonderful to see the awareness for good books growing and know that people are appreciating our curated collection.

You do a lot of book events in schools, and other places around the city and you’ve helped set up reading libraries, tell us a little more about them?

I believe it is important to promote reading for pleasure amongst all children. It was, therefore, necessary to make our unique range of Indian story books, available both in English and the regional languages, accessible to children from all backgrounds, and especially the less privileged.  We work with several schools and non-profit organizations to help set up mini-libraries and reading corners.  We encourage their librarians and teachers to come to Kahani Tree, browse and select books by a range of publishers that are simply not available in retail.  We have also facilitated book readings and author interactions in such schools and organizations and it’s been so fulfilling to spread the love for stories and books.

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How much do you think book events like these, actually contribute in spreading the reading culture?

Well planned book-events and children’s literary festivals go a long, long way in spreading the reading culture. When children get a chance to meet the author of a book they’ve read, or if a story-teller makes a book come alive, a special connection is made.  The children are energized and inspired with a new appreciation for reading.  We have seen this happen over the years, both in the schools we work with and at book-store/festival events that we have been doing.  Parents and teachers will vouch for it!

Do events like these, it in any way, help the bookstore survive? Do they bring in any return?

Book events help to build reading communities and bring together people with similar interests.  I am convinced that interesting events and curated book collections are the only way for bookstores to draw in new and different customers and survive in the rapidly growing online book world.

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What do you think the future in going to be like for the business?

I am optimistic.  We simply have to be!  I sincerely believe that we must strive to create reading, thinking, open-minded and empathetic children and they are the ones that will make a difference in these crazy times that we presently live in. We also must make every effort to make the independent bookstore survive that allows for meaningful customer interactions and builds reading communities.

Kahani Tree Mumbai

Kahani Tree Mumbai

On a much lighter note, tell us five books that you’d recommend all your readers?

Gajapati Kulapati – Ashok Rajagopalan

Elephants Never Forget – Anushka Ravishankar

The Mountain that Loved a Bird – Alice McLeran

Advaita the Writer – Ken Spillman

Who Will be Ningthou? –  Indira Mukherjee

Oh, the places you’ll go! – Dr. Seuss

The Enormous Crocodile – Roald Dahl

Heart in a Bottle – Oliver Jeffers

Wonder – R J Palacio

Journey – Aaron Becker

Sailing against the tide

Atta Galatta, a Bookstore/ Cafe/ Events Space in Bangalore is a haven for book lovers and food lovers alike, offering the unique experience of being able to float among thousands of books, mostly of Indian origin. Started in 2012 by Subodh Sankar and Lalitha Lakshmi, with the dream of bringing together art and culture. Lalitha Lakshmi shares with Bookistaan their story and what it’s like to sail against the tide.

What’s Atta Galatta‘s story?

I had been interested in having a bookstore for a long time and my husband is a foodie,  both of us started Atta Galatta together. Atta Galatta is a bookstore, cafe and events space. We actually started out from our home initially in 2012, so we had a simple beginning. Then after a year we shifted to a commercial space in Koramangala, near Jyoti Nivaas College. We started with very few events, after that when we saw the response to the events and we realized connection, people who came to the event picked up the books and had food, we found everything was interrelated and then the events grew.

What does Atta Galatta mean?

The reason we called it Atta Galatta is that it’s an Indian writing bookstore. We have Malayalam, Hindi, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada, all Indian languages and we carry mainly Indian writing authors, only for Children we have Foreign authors. Since our focus is on regional literature and Indian writing, we wanted the name to have an Indian flavor also. We wanted a word that meant something in all regional languages – you take Kannada, Atta means Attic, Atta means Play and Ataa in Tamil means play again and Galatta is sort of a universal word, it means noise. You don’t usually associate a Bookstore with shor, a bookstore is supposed to be a quiet place but Atta Galatta is not like that. You’ll find people here all the time, chatting, drinking coffee, it’s like a beehive and that’s the kind on thing we wanted our bookstore to stand for.

You said that the bookstore is also an events space, so how often do you do these events?

We do events every week – Saturdays and Sundays are full of events, we’ll have minimum of eight events in a month, Fridays also we’ve started events now and weekdays we have classes – we have yoga class, theatre classes, dance classes and sometimes we have a Meet A Friend kind of events as well. We publish a calendar for every week, we mail our regular customers and also post it on Facebook.

Atta Galatta, Bangalore

Atta Galatta, Bangalore

So, you invite Authors and other people for these events?

The first year I had to call people and then as the word spread about us it’s made our life easier; now people book the space, they call us and let us know when they want to hold an event. And it’s been nice and smooth since.

You think these events have contributed in spreading the book culture, you think they have helped in people of Bangalore becoming more conscious of books?

I think they have. they bring notice for the book, they bring notice for the author and it’s a nice place to work and have an engaging conversation. Also, I think when you have a good time in a place you tend to spend more time there and the more time you spend the more likely you are to pick a book and read. At Atta Galatta we have two reading sections – for adults as well as children, people don’t have to pay for that, you can read a book in a corner with a hot cup of coffee. So I feel this promotes reading a lot.

You started in 2012, that’s the time when the digital revolution had swept the publishing world?

Yeah, when we started all the bookstores were closing down. We started on April Fools Day, by the way. I would mail people and the’d say, ‘are you pulling my leg?’

Exactly, so how have you been coping, you think book sales have been affected? what has your experience been like?

I think book sales have been constant. See in India there are too many languages, so there’s literature in all Indian languages and Kindle or any other electronic media will take some time to get all that writing online. Also you’ve gotta pay five thousand Rupees to buy a Kindle and you can get a book for Rs 150 or you can even get them second hand. There’s a stronger likelihood of people buying books.

We have to look at our culture, other places have only english writing, we are a lot more complicated than that. We have  a multitude of languages that we don’t even know. You may call Sanskrit a dying language but we have 500 -1000 titles in the language.

Also, I think books will always be books. People who like the smell and feel of books will always buy them. It’s like you like having Khhichdi when you are unwell, books are like that. They are comfort.

Atta Galatta, Bangalore

Atta Galatta, Bangalore

You think the events helps the bookstore sustain?

Everything helps us.  the cafe does, the events do, the classes do, everything helps because the margin from books is low. It’s difficult to make the rent of the place like that only . And our bread really supports it.

Who’s your most active audience? 

It depends on the event, we have events for every audience so we see a variety of audience here. It depends on what the calendar is populated with. We do a very chaotic planning of events in the sense that we add variety.

Atta Galatta, Bangalore

Atta Galatta, Bangalore

What genres do you think are most popular?

Mythology and mystery, all the way!

Any plans of branching out?

No, we like to spend all our time here, I think it get’s difficult if your attention is divided between places. People have asked us if we’d like to franchise, but I’m not so sure about that. I think the people make the place, so whoever runs the place determines what it’s going to be like.

What has reading meant to you?

I was an only child, very introverted, so books were my constant friend. They helped a lot, filled a lot of gaps that way. It means a lot to me.

5 books you’d recommend all your readers to try?

The Scarlet Pimpernel by Emma Orczy

Tolstoy – Anna Karenina

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Lord of the Rings 

The Saint‘ Series

Photo Credit – Atta Galatta and Visual Raaga

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