In Delhi, New Bookstore at the Metro Gets Readers When They Ride

In News by Dennis Abrams

Shahida Akademi Bookstores

“[The] Delhi Metro is becoming a hub of literature and art at a time when book shops are fast closing down in the city.”

By Dennis Abrams and Bree Turner

Writing for the Hindustan Times, Manoj Sharma reports that New Delhi’s National Academy of Letters, the Sahitya Akademi, has opened its first bookstore outside its center at Mandi House.

In February of this year, the bookstore, Sahitya Akademi Metro Bookshop, opened at the busy Kashmere Gate station in New Delhi. And last month, another bookstore was opened at Vishwa Vidyala station.

In fact, as Sharma writes, “Delhi Metro is becoming a hub of literature and art at a time when book shops are fast closing down in the city.”

The president of Sahitya Akademi, Dr. Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, told the paper that, “The idea behind the bookshops at Metro stations is to introduce literature in regional Indian languages to the common man. In fact we have also started a book club at our metro shops. While we offer a 15 percent discount to all metro card holders, book club members get 25 per cent.”

It must be noted is not the first bookstore of its kind: the National Book Trust paved the way by opening in Metro stations starting 2013. The director of the National Book Trust (NBT), Rita Chowdhury, noted that Metro stations are a great place to introduce books to a new potential audience. “There is a relationship between reading habits and accessibility of books. We may soon have book shops at MG Road, Gurgaon and Botanical Garden station in Noida.”

Dr. Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, president of Sahitya Akademi describes their reasoning for opening their own stores: “The idea behind the bookshops at Metro stations is to introduce literature in regional Indian languages to the common man. In fact we have also started a book club at our metro shops”.

Some of these bookstores have even expanded into the art world, showing a rotation of pieces. According to the Hindustan Times, Mandi house station has “artworks from a mythological tale displayed in lightboxes and on a wall with explanatory text.”

Akademi and the National Book Trust may really have hit the jackpot with opening in such a busy section of New Delhi. Rita Chowdhury, explains how placement is the key to such success, “There is a relationship between reading habits and accessibility of books. We may soon have book shops at MG Road, Gurgaon and Botanical Garden station in Noida.

Munshi Premchand (known to Western audiences simply as Premchand, whose most famous book is the 1936 classic The Tale of the Cow) is among the bestselling authors at the Akademi’s bookshops, but the stores also attract fans of the best-selling “dramedy” author Chetan Bhagat, who writes about middle-class urban Indians. “I have a hard time explaining to [customers] that we do not keep Chetan Bhagat books,” Pawan Kumar Arya, manager of Akademi’s store at Kashmere Gate station told the paper.

The goal is to turn Metro stations into not only literary destinations but into “innovative art spaces” as well. Mandi House station, for example, features “artworks from a mythological tale displayed in lightboxes and on a wall with explanatory text.”

Anuj Dayal, executive director of corporate communications for Delhi Metro told the Times that installing bookstore and art displays at “select stations” is all part of an effort to “use the Metro premises to promote Indian art, culture and literature.”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.