The charm of e-commerce is increasing by the day. These days, people can explore and buy almost everything online, from items of day-to-day use to heavy machines, and get them delivered to their doorsteps. So why not books?
Book Hill, a reputed publisher, went online for selling seven months ago. Says Bhupendra Khadka, its founder, Book Hill’s main strength is its fast delivery. At Book Hill, the demand for non-fiction books is higher compared to fiction books. The reason for this, he speculates, maybe that customers who visit his online platforms are mostly the intellectual kind.
“We deliver books within the valley on the same day we get the order,” he says. The orders themselves are received via Facebook, Instagram and its website.
Having gotten encouraging feedback, Book Hill even plans to sell audiobooks and e-books online. But Khadka does not believe online buying will replace traditional bookstore visits. “It’s a good alternative though, especially in these precarious times,” he says.
Bikesh Bhattarai, CEO at Kitab Yatra that started in 2017, says his company’s larger goal is to promote reading culture but it also sells books online. Within the valley, Kitab Yatra delivers with its own staff. For other places, it has tied up with various courier services. Customers can order online through Facebook or its website.
Regarding the customers’ book choice, Bhattarai says, “Mostly, Nepalis read fiction, but more and more people are also reading non-fiction.” Bhattarai says he gets plenty of recommendation requests from prospective book buyers. “Many of them are looking for a reliable guide.”
MBSH Nepal, an online shopping platform, started three years ago. Says Satya Bahadur Shrestha, chairman at MBSH Nepal, low prices are the platform’s main strength. MBSH Nepal is planning to open branches to ease book delivery.
Satya Bahadur Shrestha
He also thinks it will take a long time for people to abandon traditional bookstores for online platforms. “Older folks generally tend to visit the store while younger ones buy online. Only when these youngsters mature will the old way of book-buying be gradually replaced.”
Anurag Paudel, CEO of Wonder Books Nepal, has been selling books online since 2018. It delivers both in and outside the valley.
“This year, I find most people are ordering self-help and motivational books online,” Paudel says. Wonder Books has also seen an increase in demand for books related to the share market. The bestsellers in recent months have been titles like ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad’, ‘Think and Grow Rich’, and ‘Power of Sub-conscious Mind’.
Paudel is sure that online bookstores will completely displace brick-and-mortar bookshops if the current craze of online buying continues unabated.
Lekha Ram Sapkota, owner at Sampurna Kitab (Chitwan), has long been operating bookstores in Kathmandu, Chitwan, Sandhikharka, Biratnagar, and Birtamod and selling books online for the past two years.
According to Sapkota, customers can put their orders via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Lekha Ram Sapkota
Sapkota says most books sold online are novels. He has no idea why. He says online delivery is especially helpful for the readers who are determined to read particular books. “But, those unsure about what to read want to personally feel and select the books. So online buying won’t replace traditional buying soon,” he concludes.
Nepal Mandala Book Shop, at lakeside Pokhara, has been running for past 25 years. At first, they were selling from the store. “But in 2017 we went online with the name BooksMandala through Instagram. After a positive response, we became active on other social media sites as well and also started our own website,” says Saurab Sharma, co-founder at BooksMandala.
BooksMandala sells and delivers books all over Nepal. Regarding the choice of books, Sharma adds, “People prefer to buy self-development books online.”
Sharma says his platform’s strength is that it has books that are not easily available elsewhere.
More and more people are buying books online in this pandemic and the business is booming. “Sales have increased as people are taking to book to relieve their covid stress,” Shrestha adds. “Even those who never read for recreation started doing so during the pandemic.”
All online booksellers APEX talked to accept payments from e-Sewa, Khalti, bank transfer, or take cash on delivery.
Book buyers are satisfied too as online platforms have increased their access to books even when they can’t venture out freely.
Saguna Shah, founder of Bookaholics, a well-known Facebook group, and a writer, says online buying is convenient. Though she loves picking books from the stores, there are times she has bought books online. “Especially in the pandemic, online book delivery has been a blessing,” she says.
She adds that her translation of Sheeba Shah’s ‘The Other Queen’, published as Kanchha Maharani during the pandemic, could reach a wider audience because of the ubiquity of online platforms.
Aneekarma, a social activist based in Pokhara, says buying books online now makes her feel safe during the pandemic.