Hyderabad: A once popular and still well-known bookstore very quietly, downed its shutters in the city past Saturday. The passing into history of the last of the Walden bookstores in the city marks the end of yet another chapter of book reading habits in Hyderabad.
Walden, the bookstore which first shuttered its main outlet in Greenlands in 2019, on Sunday announced that it was closing down its last outlet with a simple message on Facebook and Twitter. Ram Prasad, who ran the iconic bookstores in the city and swam against the tide of rising levels of lack of interest in the printed book, announced that it was with “a heavy heart, we closed the Walden store.”
“Thank you book lovers. For all the love and support since 1990. Keep reading, keep growing. To paraphrase the last words of the book Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, ‘Tomorrow is another day’,” Ram Prasad said in a tweet, that received reactions from several people who recalled either their visits to Walden or their long association with the bookstore and how it helped and shaped them over the years.
Mourning the shutting down of the bookstore, columnist and senior advocate L. Ravichander said, “The problem is not the closure of Walden or Odyssey. The tragedy is societally, we don’t even miss the absence of bookshops.”
“If the shutting down of AA Hussain was a signal, Walden’s closing is the writing on the wall. But we no longer read so we don’t see the writing on the wall,” he said. AA Hussain, the famous bookshop close to Abids Circle, was once synonymous with the best of books available in the city, but as reading habits waned and changed with the times, closed its shutters in 2015 after 65 years of serving book readers of the city. Not reading books, Ravichander said, is like rationing oxygen levels to the brain.
“As someone who interacts with students, I do notice a sharp shortfall in reading. There is either absence of peer pressure or scorn of reading anything outside of academics,” he said, adding that he had been to a book fair at NTR Gardens and found that 70 to 80 per cent of the books were either exam guides or self-help and self-management titles.
Mahboob Hussain from HydRAW Book Club said it is quite possible that the reading of physical books may have gone down and it is likely that people have shifted to digital platforms.
“This generation,” he said, “ is always consuming content. This may not be in text, but could be audio or video. Text reading is may be the habit of the older generation but there is no data on electronic books or on how ebooks are being read.”
While he said that the comprehensive experience of reading comes from the physical book, it is ok that people may be reading in other ways, may be getting their books through audio books or podcasts.