Those of us who were avid readers as children tend to have similar story arcs with our reading habits. Although we would spend hours buried in books during our younger years, life eventually got in the way. Old books started collecting dust, while the spines of new ones would mostly go uncracked. This arc was what led Rubaiya Chowdhury to start up Litmosphere, a literary organisation.
Rubaiya's fascination with fictional worlds began to take a back seat when she started attending university. With time, it disappeared altogether. When she returned home for summer break in 2016, she noticed that her sister Ramisa Chowdhury was in the depths of her obsession with books. Armed with an extensive list of suggestions, she succeeded at getting Rubaiya to rediscover her love of books again. This inspired Rubaiya to open a Facebook group with Ramisa, dedicated to former bookworms and current ones alike.
"I think we did accomplish what we set out to do. We helped readers find an online forum where they could discuss books written in both English and Bangla, exchange suggestions, and connect with each other through comments threads which often lead to holistic, offline friendships. Things like this, along with the events we organise can help liven up the reading experience for current readers and help former readers get back to reading again," Rubaiya remarked.
The organisation provides an experience which many book-based websites fail to execute. Litmosphere helps broaden members' horizons when it comes to their preferences for authors and genres in an organic manner. As Litmosphere has a community feel to it, former strangers become familiar people whose tastes a reader can trust, based on their previous recommendations or personhood.
Litmosphere also organises monthly events to discuss the assigned book of the month. The book usually revolves on a specific theme each month, such as mental health or blindness awareness. The books along with the thematic issues are then discussed extensively during these monthly meet ups.
Litmosphere has something in store for sellers too. It allows all kinds of sellers to make promotional posts, be it an established brick and mortar bookstore or a member trying to sell pop-culture merchandise. The organisation has its own membership card, which allows members to avail special privileges at stores which collaborate with Litmosphere.
The pandemic ushered in a new era for Litmosphere, giving way to robust changes. Although meet ups such as monthly book circles and themed yearly events significantly decreased in frequency, the Facebook group became swamped with new members, review posts and memes. Changes in the daily pace of life influenced many to pick up old habits, including reading. The lack of in-person meet ups were replaced by virtual events such as book-based movie nights.
When asked about the future, Rubaiya mentioned that Litmosphere really wants to help its members introduce the world of fiction to the children in their lives. "We do not want literature to fully transcend into becoming a dying art," stated Rubaiya.