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Westland closure: Titles that are selling fast and a few personal recommendations

Indie bookstore owners report a surge in sales of Westland titles; when they are running out of books, they are helping each other out by sending them across

February 06, 2022 / 10:44 AM IST
Westland's readers and sellers offer recos across genres. (Photo Courtesy: Bookworm Bookstore Blr, Twitter)

Westland's readers and sellers offer recos across genres. (Photo Courtesy: Bookworm Bookstore Blr, Twitter)

Over the past couple of days, Instagram, Twitter and mailing groups have been flooded with posts grieving Amazon's decision to shut down Westland. The publishing house's authors have been asking people to buy their books before the titles are "pulped", though there is no confirmation on what is to become of the unsold books. Readers have been asking each other which ones they should stock up before they go out of print.

Even as independent bookstores added their voices in a show of solidarity for the homegrown publisher, many reported increased sales of Westland's -- and its imprints' -- books.

It has only been a few days since Amazon made its announcement, on February 1. The American mutinational had acquired it from a Tata Group subsidiary, Trent, in 2016.

In demand

"We've run out of some of the popular ones, and so have the distributors in the city," said Bookworm's Krishna Gowda.

In Bengaluru, thanks to the MG Road-Church Street bookstore circuit, customers did not go home disappointed.

"In such cases, we sourced books from Blossom, Higginbotham and Gangaram's," he said.

However, even before the announcement, he said that Westland titles -- including those of imprints Context, Eka and Red Panda -- were selling well.

"Their range has only became wider even once the pandemic hit," Bookworm's Krishna Gowda said. "And in spite of that, they are being shut down, I don't know..."

He trailed off, sounding more than slightly baffled.

Mayi Gowda, of Blossoms Book House, echoed a similar sentiment.

"It was great to see that Westland really diversified from sure-shot popular fiction over the past couple of years."

Both stores listed Aakar Patel's Price of Modi Years and Rukmini Srinivasan's Whole Numbers and Half Truths and among the most popular non-fiction titles.

Bookworm staff added a few others: Mermaids in the Moonlight, Born to Bat by Red Panda and Context's Poonachi.

Lightroom Bookstore, in Cooke Town, stocks Red Panda's biographies.

"But they're too new for any of their books to have become very popular," said proprietor Aashti Mudnani.

Nagasri Bookhouse in Jayanagar has seen a steady demand for the publisher's titles over the past few decades.

"As far as the book-selling business is concerned, we're very old-school -- we have no online presence, so we rarely see sharp spikes or dips in sales," said Venkatesh KV, who runs the true-blue brick-and-mortar store.

"We depend on face-to-face customer relationships built over 45 years," he added.

"We stock many Westland titles, but it's been heartening to see poetry, translations, graphic novels and books around conservation from them, given that we go beyond showcasing fiction bestsellers."


Future of titles

Champaca Bookstore, Library and Cafe's Instagram post talked of why this is a 'hard blow' to indie publishing, and why the reading community should care: a great repertoire of books that have not yet been bought by bookstores and readers may disappear, not to mention where this would leave the staff.

As yet, no official line has been issued by the multinational tech giant on what will become of Westland's titles.

One bookstore owner has heard that the books can be sold until March.

Krishna Gowda of Bookworm has had it in confidence from one author that a traditional publisher will acquire his book.

"In all probability, the popular authors and titles will continue to be in print," said Krishna Gowda. "It's the newer authors, especially of fiction, who will have it roughest."

In a month or two, demand for such books might see a slight rise in the second-hand segment, he added.

Personal favourites

Many bookstore owners and staff said that they looked forward to reading Westland titles, in addition to selling them.

Both Krishna Gowda and Mayi Gowda loved Amish Tripathi's Shiva trilogy.

"I read the first, and eagerly awaited the next two, with other fans," said Mayi Gowda.

Krishna Gowda has had little time to read since the pandemic struck, but has been meaning to catch up on Westland's non-fiction catalogue. Specifically: "Price of ModiWhole Numbers and Half Truths, and M Rajshekhar's Despite the State."

Aashti Mudnani and her daughter enjoyed Thank God It's Caturday! 

"And I really liked Bombay Balchao and Queeristan," she said.

Venkatesh KV admited that he read reviews more than he did books.

"That's what my weekend workday looks like," he said.

However, he did read Sanjay Gubbi's Leopard Diaries a few months ago. His verdict: fascinating.

Chetana Divya Vasudev
first published: Feb 6, 2022 10:43 am