Wednesday, April 21, 2004

The bookstore boom

The arrival of lifestyle bookstores like Crossword and Landmark into town has sparked off a debate between supporters of traditional bookstores and the new age ones with snazzy interiors, cafes and stuff. Most of the leading bookstores around the country now have a presence in Bangalore. Kolkata's The Oxford Bookstore opened an outlet in the Leela Galleria on Airport Road last year. Mumbai's Strand has had an extensive and popular store in Manipal Centre for a few years now. The only nationwide bookstore chain Crossword came late but came big with its largest outlet spread over 20,000 sq ft at ACR Towers on Residency Road opposite the Taj Gateway Hotel. Chennai's impressive Landmark opened recently at the Forum Mall in Koramangala and is spread over 50,000 sq ft and claims to be India's largest bookstore although a good 30,000 square foot of that space is devoted to retailing merchandise ranging from watches to mobile phones and music and stationery. Having paid a visit to both Crossword and Landmark last week I must conclude that while there is little to differentiate between most big bookstores these days, Landmark seems to have the edge atleast in the books department. It stocks some titles that I haven't seen in other stores and has a stupendous collection of superhero comics imported from the US. Its only quirk seems to be in its insistence that customers enter only at the lower level and exit at the upper level. Apparently Landmark is bringing its famed quiz to town this year. That will be something to watch out for! Chennai's other big homegrown bookstore Odyssey is also rumoured to be considering an expansion into Bangalore. What was that about reading going out of fashion?


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