A new bookstore in the heart of Bombay’s historic area. In one of the old Victorian buildings. With claims of offering more than just the latest bestseller. Inviting you to just sit and read for a while. With a cosy little cafe to boot. What more could one want?
As it turns out, a lot.
First, if you’re going for a ‘period’ look, do it properly. Don’t mix carved columns and exposed ceiling beams with ‘warm’ wooden tones that look like an Ikea rip-off. Get those bookshelves and staircases polished a nice, deep old-world style brown. You know, Irani-cafe and Walkeshwar bungalow and Fort reading room brown. The brown that’s so dark it’s almost black, that you think would feel intimidating but actually is comforting, the brown that screams old Bombay class. That brown. Go ahead, and don’t listen to those interior designers. It won’t make the place look stuffy and claustrophobic – for crying out loud, you have 20-foot high ceilings and white floors, it can’t get claustrophobic.
Next, please put up big signs all over the place reminding your customers and your staff that this is a Kitab Khana, not an Awaaz Khana. Y’know, books, not noise? People want to go in there listen to the words in the books, not have to endure some phoren-jaunting SoBabe calling Villoo Aaaauntie to discuss her Kerala trip and how it was so green and yes it’s marketing but it is truly is godsowncountry and did she get the card and wasn’t it just hai-lair-ious. Seriously, if you can’t instruct your staff to walk upto someone who’s bleating away on their phone in a bookshop, then put an ad out – there’s lots of cranky bawas who’ll happily donate their hours to slap such idiots silly with a mawa cake.
Oh, and while you’re at it, remind your staff that they work in a bookshop, and that while helpfulness and all is good, customers would prefer to be able to browse books without having to listen to five of them fluttering around one computer and arguing about the invoicing system or having them take calls and wander round the store loudly informing the person at the other end what books are and aren’t in stock. There’s really no point inviting people to come and read for a while when there’s too much noise to do so peacefully.
And while we’re talking of seating space, a few more stools wouldn’t go amiss in each section, since the books are stacked all the way to the bottom and not every customer is a yogic gymnast.
And while we’re talking about stacking books, can you try not to have piles and piles of unsorted books lying in the middle of the floor? Just because it’s on the mezzanine doesn’t mean people don’t go there. And if you just don’t have the place out-of-sight, then at least stack them tidily and put up a warning or something.
And while we’re on the mezzanine, can you please label all your sections? Your store’s been open nearly eight months, surely you can have sorted this by now. And if you’re reshuffling them, do your customers the courtesy of putting up a sign that says so, so that they don’t find sports books in areas marked as ‘Classics’.
And while we’re talking of sections, where’s your SF&F section? You have a three whole shelves full of young adult stuff like Percy Jackson and Artemis Fowl, but nothing for adult readers? Oh, it’s there, but just been mislabelled and I should ask the staff? Again, eight months! Get it labelled already so I don’t have to keep asking people (which means more talking in a bookshop!).
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While a new bookshop is always welcome, and one that has a dedicated space for events and launches more so, right now the place feels just too pseudo-SoBo-touristy. Just a little too … frou-frou. Much mehness.