It was always our dream to have a book club in Margao. So when we finally moved to a new office space in the city that gave us enough room to host a book club meeting, we jumped at the opportunity. Two months into moving in, we had our first book club meeting on the 24th of March.

We had six people attending the first meeting and along with us made for a full house of 11. While we thought that the group should not be constrained with too many rules, we did put a framework in place:

a. Unlike most other book clubs, we decided not to insist on just one book being read for the meetings. Instead members could decide what they each wanted to read and come to the meeting prepared to discuss that book. We decided on this approach because it might not be feasible to find so many copies of the same book and because not everyone may feel inclined to read the same book.

b. However, based on one member’s suggestion, we thought we would all consider reading the same book twice a year i.e. once every six months, all members would discuss the same book at the meeting.

c. At the book club meeting, books alone would be discussed and every effort would be made to ensure that the discussions did not stray away from books

d. While discussing, members could speak about:

  • The plot of the book (without giving too much away)
  • The characters in the book
  • A new author they had read or heard about
  • Perhaps even discuss who would play the role of characters in the book if it were made into a movie.
  • Other aspects that impacted the reader the most
e. Finally, we decided to meet on the last Saturday of every month.

We are excited about this book club and hope it will be a place where intellectually stimulating conversations take place. We are planning another book club for children. We will keep you posted on that one.

On the 29th of March, 2010, Mira Koreth’s bookpad at Banerghatta Road, Bangalore registered its first sales. For us at fivex5, it was a vindication of our belief that fivex5 was a concept whose time had come.

First some background. fivex5 was conceptualized as an alternate channel for selling books not because the other channels had dried up but because they were proving to be inefficient and expensive. Those familiar with the brick-and-mortar supply chain will tell you why it is expensive. Publishers get only a small pie of book sales and the money is realized after many days. More importantly the supply chain is hardly efficient. Only a tiny fraction of books make it to the large bookstore chains. The situation gets even worse as one moves away from the cities and towns.

The online store was supposed to change all that. Online stores do provide a much larger catalogue to choose from and offer large discounts that benefit the buyer. But publishers still gain little and the low Internet penetration in India is not helping matters. Websites can support Indian languages to a very limited extent so displaying titles in languages other than English remains a challenge. Besides, customers are still, albeit to a lesser degree, reluctant to pay for the books using their credit cards. Finally, many customers would still rather hold and feel a book before buying it.

If there was ever a possibility of marrying the catalogue-rich feature of online bookstores with the personal attention and rural reach that only brick-and-mortar stores can provide, fivex5 can make that happen. While there is a large online catalogue to choose from (and at the rate publishers are joining in, it can only get better), customers still get a chance to hold a book and view it before buying it.

With fivex5, we hope to develop many small bookstores instead of a few large ones. These will be scattered across villages and towns thus providing publishers with channels to the remotest of areas. What we have also observed is that people in many cities have also expressed a desire to own a bookpad. This can only mean that the presence of bookstores in large cities still leave an unsatisfied need for books.