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Saturday, August 20, 2011

a bookshop breathes its last

After customers took to browsing on the internet, Al-Zamel Bookshop in Al-Rai began to experience a painful reality - a dying community of readers. The bookshop, mainly catered to the reading appetites of the Indian community with its Malayalam books section, in addition to stocking 9,000 English and 6,000 Arabic titles will down its shutters next week.

The only sales generated during the past six months was in the form of periodicals that flew off the shelves. But that's not enough for us survive, said Manager Alexander Chacko. Struggling to pay rent and salaries to its two employees, the bookshop has met its demise, he added.

Inaugurated two years ago, the bookshop had attracted customers thanks to the varied sections it offered, from Walt Disney books to Vampire stories to Indian fiction and non-fiction. Children's books were popular, said Alexander who loves to read classics, Once children bought their favorite books, that was end of it. Looks like parents are not encouraging their children to cultivate a reading habit.

What is worse, Alexander notes, is the hypocrisy of the literati he knew personally, The self-proclaimed saviors of literature have not turned out to buy a single book. A library in Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, that Alexander had taken an initiative to open two months ago, faced a setback too. It was inaugurated by an award-winning Indian writer, Bahrain based Benyamin, amid much fanfare.

After kicking up a metaphorical storm to revive the vanishing habit of reading, none of them visited the library again although its boasted of a sizable collection, of books he said. The only saving grace, he said, were the students that passed by occasionally.

Meanwhile, Al-Zamel's bookshop's building owner has bought most of books in preparation for its impending closure, But the shop will no longer be in operation. The dwindling number of readers is a world-wide phenomenon in the age of Kindle. We have to take a step back for the time being. Next week 15,000 books will be stashed away in the storeroom. The first shelf to be emptied will be the classic books section.

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