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Eloor Libraries shuts down its Delhi outlet for want of readers

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SAD STATE: Interior of the Eloor Library in South Extension, Delhi
It must be one of Delhi’s best-kept secrets. It certainly took the mother and daughter duo by surprise. The bunch of books that they painstakingly selected after browsing for almost an hour could be bought at a discount, but could not be let out, they discovered to their surprise. For, Eloor lending library, the legend among book lovers that opened its first branch in Ernakulam and then spread to Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Bangalore and Kolkata, is shutting shop in Delhi after being in business for seven years.

“What we have been doing is obviously not enough to garner more business. Kolkata is also not doing as good as we thought, but at least we have revived our business to some extent by stocking a lot of Bengali books. Delhi, I feel we need to tackle in a different way. I certainly want to come back here, but with strategies — perhaps online or something — in place,” says Gautam Luiz, who runs the Eloor chain.

Interestingly, Eloor’s Delhi chapter has a story more romantic than the books found in its Romance section. Luiz, whose father opened the very first branch in 1979, met his wife-to-be in Delhi, who had informed him that she used to visit the library in Cochin. Cupid-struck Luiz decided to open a branch in Delhi.

Although Luiz had earlier admitted in a newspaper report dated October 2013, that times were tough, he had brushed off the possibility that libraries were edging towards extinction. So what went wrong in three months?

“It has been a tough call. But we somehow are not able to expand our membership base in Delhi. It has about 1,500 members, which is not a good enough number to sustain a full-fledged library. Since we do not compromise on new releases, we ended up putting more money in and at some point it stopped making sense to continue,” says Luiz.

For Ankit Aggarwal, who runs a bookshop, Bookvook, in Alaknanda market, skyrocketing retail real estate prices is the biggest culprit for the shutting down of the city’s private libraries. “I had plans to start a library initially, but had to shelve it because it was not commercially viable. If I wanted a good presence and locality, my overheads would have shot up and I would not make any profit. If I chose an obscure location, the rent might have been low, but I doubt if there would have been many readers.” So he ended up making a compromise: he opened a bookshop that also sells — in fact, more often sells —products meant for babies and kids.

There’s a bit of silver lining in the latest tragedy for book lovers, though: the vast collection of Eloor is being sold off at 50 per cent marked down prices until the end of December.


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