Bookstores and The Reading Culture

A book is a gift you can open again and again,‘ said Garrison Keillor.

That is such a wonderful and apt way to describe a book. 

A book is indeed a gift that you can open as many times as you want and whenever you want. It will remain yours forever, with no expiration date and no need to worry about running out of battery. It is yours to own and cherish.

While we all rue the fact that the habit of reading seems to be dying, what are we doing about it? Are we taking any measures to stop that from happening? Maybe we are, but as individuals, we cannot do much. On the other hand, bookstores, with the resources and opportunities at their disposal, can go a long way in not only preventing the habit of reading from dying but also playing a crucial role in encouraging and fostering it. They can provide the much-needed fuel to this fire.

Unlike earlier, nowadays, we can buy books from either a bookstore or online. However, when it comes to fostering a reading culture, the bookstores can contribute way more than the online options. Besides providing us with books, bookstores can undertake several activities to encourage people to read more. The various options bookstores can provide are why we need to support bookstores in every possible way.

Let us see how bookstores can help foster and spread the reading culture.

Exposure to Books and Genres

When a person walks into a bookstore, there are generally two reasons for that; one is that the person may have come to pick up a specific book, or another could be that they may have just walked in to browse and discover a book. In both cases, there are very bright chances that the person will look around, browse the bookshelves, and find books by another author, other genres, and books by the same author. And that discovery may lead them to read new and different books. 

Sometimes, when you enter a bookstore ( that has happened several times with me) and look at the different sections, you get drawn towards some of them. They may pertain to topics you may have overlooked in recent times or just didn’t know existed. But when you are made aware of them, you realise that you want to explore them and may pick up books from that section. 

Compare this scenario with an online store. The entire exercise of purchase may be faster and cheaper when you go online, but will it be able to foster the habit of reading in this way? Does the online store have the ability to provide this freedom to explore and the opportunity to discover books and authors? The answer is an obvious NO!! The algorithm can only recommend books of a similar nature but cannot allow the person to find books and genres unrelated to the purchase.

Also Read: 5 Must-Visit Bookstores in Rome

Interaction with Like-Minded People

Entering a bookstore means that naturally, at some point, you will end up interacting with the owner or the salesperson; in both cases, you stand a good chance of getting recommendations and suggestions. You can get into discussions, broadening your horizons and increasing your chances of discovering new books and authors again, leading you to read more.

And who can deny that book lovers get drawn to each other and may end up discussing books and authors over cups of coffee, especially if you happen to be in a book cafe?

Those discussions can fuel the habit of reading in many, many ways.

Eye-Catching Store Windows And Displays

Sometimes, you may get pulled inside while walking past a bookstore due to the eye-catching book displays. The colourful, attractive, imaginative ways of displaying books are a sure-shot way of getting people to enter and explore the store. And who knows what that exploration could lead to!!

Other Experiences

The whole gamut of reading experiences that bookstores can provide is unparalleled. Besides books, bookstores allow readers to get to know other people and become part of book clubs, discussions, debates, book readings and other literary events. Such activities with a commitment towards reading a book within a period push you to read and then reflect on what you have read. This exercise can be an excellent way of absorbing the content, discussing it, and looking for more. Such activities can stimulate and invigorate your mind like nothing else, wanting you to read more and more. 

Some bookstores even have these cosy corners where people can just sit and read. The calm and the quiet can help you spend a couple of hours lost in your favourite book. It can be a great way to relax and rejuvenate your mind.

For The Star Stuck

For the star-struck, the bookstores also give you the opportunity to meet and interact with your favourite authors, poets and publishers. That can also be a hugely motivating and rewarding experience. It may not only encourage you to read but could inspire you to write as well.

Influence On Young Minds

As in most cases in the case of reading, too it is crucial to, as they say, catch them young. Society should try to develop the habit of reading in children from an early age, and bookstores can help parents and schools do this. When parents bring their children to a charming bookstore, the catchy displays can attract any child, and the parents can utilise the cosy reading spaces to not only spend time with their children but also read out to them, expose them to books of various kinds and kindle their interest. This way, bookstores can help encourage children to read.

Collaborations For Reading

Regarding promoting the habit of reading, bookstores can collaborate with various institutions to encourage this habit. They can cooperate with schools and residential clubs to form libraries and reading clubs and encourage children and adults to read. This way, they can carry the practice started by parents further. They can even bring books and authors to people’s doorsteps. If that doesn’t kindle interest in reading, what else can?

Also Read: 12 Best Bookstores in New York: A Haven for Bibliophiles

Break from a Physical Device

While there are options to read online, reading a physical book has the advantage of giving you a break from the many devices we use during the day. Bookstores can take this further by offering discounts, loyalty programs, and more, which can encourage people to buy books.

Thus, bookstores can play a crucial role in ensuring that people don’t stop reading physical books. In the earlier days, looking for a bookstore and its offerings may have been a challenge, but in today’s times of social media, bookstores can make their existence and all that they do known and visible.

So when they have so much to offer, why shouldn’t we make an all-out effort to promote them and help them ensure the habit of reading does not die? We should help them bring it roaring back into our lives and those of our children.

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Hello! I’m Sangeeta Relan. Aside from being an educationist teaching at the university level for the last 28 years, I have been a corporate wife and a mother to two boys who have now flown the nest. I love cooking, singing, travelling and exploring new places.

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