I don't remember the last time I could eye a book from my wish-list in the local stores. Novels by emerging voices, shortlisted for Man Booker, Pulitzer, and other prestigious prizes are barely seen. Mostly, non-fiction books that are barely read, classics, overhyped sappy teen romance, Harry Potter books and many other fantasy fictions (often in new avatars) line the shelves.
It is only logical to bring in books that are favoured by the majority so that the readers read and the business booms. But there remains a problem with this approach. When the same books, mostly by the same authors due to their unwavering popularity are churned out from the stores, the views of many impressionable readers become boxed. Because of the unending cycle of importing the overhyped books by the popular novelists, the readers cannot and do not want to look beyond their existence. Whenever the popular novelists release new novels, they are brought in abundance. However, there are many other entertaining, important, and beautifully written books out there, which are internationally discovered, and should be popularised in our local scene as well. I mean, Nicholas Sparks, Colleen Hoover, Rupi Kaur, and Cassandra Clare deserve a break, to be honest. Our bookstores adorn their collections by depending on the readers (read: the majority) and their suggestions. It's justified but it kills diversity because they are still so attached to the timeless and popular books that they totally ignore the emerging works that may even be better in quality. If they had enthusiastically kept up with international publishing houses like Alfred A. Knopf, Riverhead, HarperCollins, Doubleday, etc and prioritised the “locally” less known globally famous debut novels, our bookstores would have been successful in catering to every reader, not just the majority, and I wouldn't have to write this article.
The ever stagnant collections lead the others into ordering books from Amazon through various vendors. The wait is annoying and problematic, and the books end up costing a lot more than they should. It doesn't give us the option to randomly walk into a bookstore, browse through the books, and simply buy one that we like. At such times, we long for a literary insurgency. We do walk into random bookstores, and we do browse through the books, but we're tired of having to look at Pride and Prejudice, The Fault in Our Stars, The Da Vinci Code, etc on entering. As for the non-fiction books, I don't think a lot of people would want to read a 300 page long book on growing money on trees while in bed. Unfortunately, such books are omnipresent in every bookstore, as though they're the stores' lungs, while many deserving books aren't.
Although there is a glimmer of hope since some bookstores like Charcha and Batighor are upping their game on enriching their collections and making them diverse, there is still a long way to go. I hope the days aren't far enough when we would be excused from having to notice the same books by the same authors (Roald Dahl, Paulo Coelho, Rainbow Rowell, E.L James) for countless years sitting on the shelves.