Reopening holds prospects and pitfalls for bookstores | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, October 20, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 09:53 PM, October 20, 2020

Books Briefing

Reopening holds prospects and pitfalls for bookstores

As Covid-19 infections continue across the country, several bookstores in the capital are creatively rebooting.

In addition to selling books online, Bookworm Bangladesh, located at Old Airport Road, reopened their physical store with limited hours and stringent safety protocols involving face masks, sanitisers and disinfectant sprays. In an effort to engage with their audience, they are also planning to host virtual programmes called 'Bookworm Sessions', Ariz Hoque, Social Media Coordinator, tells The Daily Star.

However, the struggles of the past few months are yet to end. Due to travel restrictions and unavailability of stocks, the store is facing delays in incoming consignments. "We are noticing a drop in reprints from large publishing houses," Ariz said.

"All couriers from abroad were stalled until very recently," Minhaz Muhammad, a bookseller at Charcha, agrees. "Deliveries are still slow."

However, popular bookstore Baatighar are a bit luckier, having received seven to eight consignments, mostly from Kolkata. "We had placed our book orders around the time of the Ekushey Book Fair, so we were able to keep a good stock of books," says Dipankar Das, owner of Baatighar.

On the other hand, Bangladesh Culture & Books, the only bookshop at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (Departure Lounge, Terminal 2) has been severely affected due to the suspension of flights since March. Store Manager Michael G shares, "The pandemic has been a major setback for us. We closed our shutters for seven months." They continued their activities online though, by posting videos on Instagram and Facebook and inviting authors for virtual chats about their books.

The store has reopened on October 1, but profit remains below the margin. "We import our books from the USA, UK and India. These books used to reach Dhaka in seven to ten days, but each consignment takes at least one month now," Michael laments. "Shipping charges have also skyrocketed." There's also the added cost for health safety. "We sanitise our books with alcohol pads before packaging them and provide extra alcohol pads with every delivery," Michael said.

Banani's Keepsake, a gift and bookshop, remained open both online and offline, but were not spared from similar issues. "Besides custom duties, transportation costs of consignments are much higher than the previous fiscal year. This has had a direct effect on our prices," explained Liaison Officer Md Sifat Kaiser Khan.

Fortunately for Worthy Books BD, despite a fall in spot purchases, the store managed to see a spike in online sales from an ongoing 10 percent discount on products. It is now gearing up for the future. "We will be launching our monthly magazine, Quirky, in November," shares co-founder Nuzaimul Hoque Xishan. "It will be similar to Reader's Digest, with segments devoted to health, advice, lifestyle, entertainment, business, food, travel and literature."

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