Reading books, the new way
Reading books, the new way
The reading habit is far from dying in the city. Lending libraries are diversifying to adapt to modern readers’ needs and interests
R Krishnakumar | TNN
Bangalore: When stock markets in the US were hitting new lows this October, the Chicago Public Library had a sunny detail to record. The lending library saw a 28% jump in circulation through the year. The reason? People saving up on book purchases in lean times were instead heading to libraries.
What’s the scene in namma Bengaluru? With the Bangalore Book Festival on, we figured this was the season to check out how the city’s lending libraries are reaching out to readers. We found a few interesting trends. The round-the-corner, neighbourhood libraries — usually a single or two room affairs — with stacks of Mills & Boons, Grishams and magazines were no longer favoured by the people. The city’s reading habits are increasingly being influenced by the traffic that you need to brave before you can get to the books. Hence, the staple of the yore, the space-strapped neighbourhood lending libraries are making way for new-age libraries that offer a diverse spread of books and personalized services that redefine the reading experience.
It is heartening that while some small book lenders have shut shop, reading as a culture is thriving in Bangalore. Eloor Lending Library — one of the city’s most successful — clocks three new members everyday. “There hasn’t been a dip in reading interest as the numbers show. The key has been in offering diverse fare and enough choice,’’ says library manager Gopal.
Eloor caters to about 16,500 members with over 70,000 titles, which include magazines. It charges a refundable initial fee of Rs 800 and 10% of the cost of the book as rent (for 14 days). Fiction is the top draw at Eloor, but readers also like self-help and spirituality books, apart from expensive, high-end foreign magazines. The target reader is the one who could be lost in Marcel Proust or flipping through Vogue.
The key is offering innovative personalized services. With online libraries the criticality of the travelling distance becomes non-critical. Arun Kumar, an IT consultant, says door delivery of books on rent saves much in terms of time. Easy Library, in Koramangala, pioneered the concept of online libraries (easylib.com) in the city. The members reserve the books online and get them delivered at home.
Seven years after its launch, the library continues to diversify. It hosts literary meets, story-telling events and has two in-house forums for readers: Mindshare, a space for the philosophically inclined and Read On, a monthly event that exposes children to literature across genres, from Terry Pratchett to Munshi Premchand.
Vani Mahesh, proprietor of Easy Library, says the diversification is pegged to a concept as practised in the west, where libraries also double up as cultural hubs. Easy Library has about 17,000 books across 40 categories and a membership of nearly 2,500.
Readerslib, on Bellandur Road, has also taken forward the same model, within a limited radius. Mark, proprietor of the library, says door delivery is a USP considering the traffic situation in Bangalore. The membership hasn’t seen a dip. Housewives form about 50% of the customer base and IT sector employees, about 25%. The library charges Rs 1,000 as the initial fee, of which Rs 800 is refundable. The rent is 10% of the book’s cost. Mysteries, business/management titles and children’s literature are the top draws.
FLAVOUR OF HOME
The connoisseurs of Kannada literature don’t have much to take home from the new-age libraries in the city. Reason? Kannada books are available at relatively low prices. According to proprietors of these libraries, the low pricing of Kannada books has led to a situation where people would rather buy them than read on rent.
The state central libraries are still favoured for Kannada books by many readers. Organizations like the Udayabhanu Kalasangha have also lined up libraries with a good collection of Kannada books