PANAJI: The emergence of large book store chains, boom in e-publishing coupled with Coronavirus lockdown has severely affected the business of small independent bookshops in the country. With an aim to deal with these problems jointly, owners of six different independent bookstores from various parts of the country, including two from Goa have joined hands to form Independent Bookstores Association of India (IBAI) to promote and empower independent bookstores in India. Launched on 28th May 2020 IBAI is formed by owners of six independent bookshops: DiviyaKapur (Literati, Goa), Raman Shresta (Rachna Books, Gangtok), Leonard and Queenie Fernandes (The Dogears Bookshop, Goa), Neha Tiwari and Vishal Pipraiya (Pagdandi Bookstore Café, Pune), Aman and MayuraMisra (Storyteller Bookstore, Kolkata), and Ahalya and MeethliMomaya (Trilogy, Mumbai). IBAI’s main objective is to bridge the gap between book retail industry and independent bookstores, the idea is to facilitate bookshops who need assistance and represent the problems of such bookstores through the association. Keeping in mind the unprecedented times, bookstores will be taking certain measures post-lockdown to ensure the safety of their customers, like mandatory wearing of masks, disinfecting hands with a sanitizer before entering the store, and limiting customers to a minimum to avoid crowding in any case. “Independent Bookstores are important to readers and authors, as we provide the most appropriate platform for book clubs, launching new books and author readings. We try to give out a great cultural experience,” says Diviya Kapur. She believes there is a bright future for Independent Bookshops, but until the pandemic ends, door to door delivery is the new way of reaching out to the readers. The organisation aims at bringing maximum independently owned bookstores together, which will enhance communication, cooperation and raise a voice, which was missing until now. “Usually, independent bookstores get neglected, this organisation gives us a voice where we can share our thoughts, ideas, and help stores with any kind of help,” says MayuraMisra. Storyteller Bookstore in Kolkata specializes in children’s books, “bookselling is not dead even in the middle of the pandemic,” adds Aman Misra. By conducting online reading sessions by various authors Storyteller Bookstore is adapting to the digital platform and bringing children closer to the books. While speaking to Vishal Pipraiya, he said “coming together has given us a collective power to represent ourselves and protect our interest as booksellers.” The COVID-19 outbreak may have put a pause on physical bookselling, but these independent bookshops are trying to keep up the community experience through online open mic sessions, poetry events, etc. One such bookstore is Pagdandi Bookstore Café situated in Pune, that is using the digital medium to stay connected with its customers by conducting monthly online poetry sessions to keep people’s mind off from the after-effects of the pandemic. “The experience of discovering new books in a bookstore with personal recommendations, cannot be replicated online. We are eager to get back and invite book lovers, but also adhering to guidelines given by the Government,” added Vishal Pipariya. For further details visit www.indiebookshops.in.