Books losing popularity as gift items

Books – fiction, non-fiction or poetry – used to be among the preferred gifts till around the later part of the last century. Now, they would perhaps be among the least favoured, revealed a bookseller in Panbazar, the hub of book selling and publishing.

In the eighties of the last century some of the perennial favourites among wedding gifts were Assamese novels by a host of writers like Birendranath Bhattacharya, short stories and thought provoking works by authors like Sourav Chaliha, Dr Hiren Gohain and many others. Gradually, the seminal works of Assamese have seen a sad decline in their popularity.

According to Paban Barthakur, a civil servant, the situation is mainly because of dwindling reading habits. “Nowadays students especially confine themselves to texts, and other literary works have a smaller audience.”

He favours any initiative that would encourage more young people to read books on a variety of subjects, which would allow them to know their society better. Unless that happens, a generation would grow up not knowing about their cultural roots.

Perhaps, those who choose gifts are also not quite fond of books, or they may feel that the recipient might not quite appreciate a literary work, quipped a salesman at another bookshop. “Since early this year, we have sold about 15 novels, and only two customers wanted them gift wrapped,” he added.

“Books can be a great gift because they have a certain permanence. They are a treasure trove of wisdom and knowledge. Compared to other gifts, they are definitely more dignified, said Bedabrata Lahkar, a senior journalist.

Lahkar attributes the decline in the popularity of books to changing lifestyles where people have less time and inclination to read books. Growth of consumerism, he feels is the other reason for the falling popularity of books.

There are, however, people who would prefer to gift books on marriages or birthdays. Smita, a homemaker gave her cousin Naipaul’s The Mystic Masseur, while Gautam a young professional presented books on his friends marriage. They both believe that their presents would continue to give pleasure long after other gifts lose their appeal.

(The Assam Tribune,19.04.2006)