One of the treasures of any bustling urban common space are its footpath bookshops. Mumbai had one of the largest stretches of footpath book sellers until the middle of the last decade. The death and decline of this culture can be traced back to the time when the city cleared the footpath booksellers some time in the early to mid- 2000s, leaving only a small stretch at Fountain, on the northern side. It coincided with the decline of the city’s influence on the rest of India, a space quickly filled up cities like Delhi/NCR, Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad. The reasons for our relative decline and their growing influence has many other reasons. But the crackdown on culture of books is a sign that points to the reasons for the city’s intellectual decline.
The booksellers who remain can read readers like no one else. They are carriers of a wealth of knowledge on how we consume books and more. They are a Bombay Treasure.
Meanwhile these days we have online bookstores who have powerful computers who track everything that you search and buy and for big tech, books seem to be the testing ground to find out customers preference. Amazon started with book delivery, Flipkart did the same in India. They do an amazing job and getting you books that are hard to find but when it comes to predicting what we like to read and what books to recommend, they still fall short, in my opinion.
Even machines, want to sell me what they feel is right for me, based on what is most profitable and easy for them. And from reading what others are buying. I rarely get book recommendations that I want. However, it could be only a matter of time before they get that right too.