Goa has always seemed like the right location for an idyllic book village, like Hay-on-Wye in Wales. Even as book stores and libraries the world over have been struggling to stay open, literary events and spaces in Goa have been flourishing, perhaps due to the large number of writers and authors based in the state.

Over the past year, several new initiatives have been taking books to readers, with pop-up book stores at colleges and events, and online libraries. It can, for instance, be difficult to reach The Dogears Bookshop, Margao, given the lack of good transport, constant road work and unending traffic jams. So founders Leonard Fernandes and Queenie Rodrigues, who used to run an online store earlier, have started hosting pop-up stores through the year.

“We go to many schools and colleges and try to take inexpensive books so that students can afford them. Students often pool in their money together to buy one book. Sometimes, they are even for 25-30 each," Fernandes says. Pop-ups are also held at literature festivals like the Goa Arts and Literature Festival or at stores across the state. Dogears also hosts regular talks, movie screenings and author meets to attract readers to the store.

Dogears started as a children’s book store but now has a large selection of popular fiction and non-fiction, used books and books on Goa that you usually can’t find online. “Sales have been good this festive season," he adds.

Fernandes and Rodrigues also run the Publishing Next conference, an event that addresses the changes in the publishing industry and the issues facing it.

Goa’s established book ventures, like the Broadway Book Centre in Panaji and Literati at Calangute, are going strong. There are around 149 state-run libraries across various talukas and villages. This does not include book stores, private libraries, college and university libraries, and those run by non-governmental organizations. Panaji’s Krishnadas Shama Goa State Central Library, for instance, has six floors of books, art and sculpture. It’s free to visit and browse but you need a membership to borrow. It’s a fascinating space where you can spend hours.

Elijah D’Souza of Booktique and his dog Pablo prepare for a round of book deliveries.
Elijah D’Souza of Booktique and his dog Pablo prepare for a round of book deliveries. (Photo: The Booktique)

If you can’t get to a book store or library, The Booktique may be the solution for you. Started in December 2018, this unique library is run mainly through Instagram and cycle power by college students Emmanuel Souza and Elijah D’Souza, who are voracious readers. Buying books online was eating into their budget, so D’Souza came up with the idea of an online library. Souza helped stock up on a selection of books. An Instagram account, a catalogue on Google Drive and some WhatsApp publicity fuelled interest across the state.

Interested customers contact the duo via Instagram. They are then sent a link to the catalogue and a form for contact details and titles of interest. The books are then packed in old newspaper. D’Souza, an endurance cyclist, uses his cycle to deliver books across north Goa for free.

The Booktique keeps rental charges low ( 20 per book per week) to make reading cheaper and accessible. “We have around 130 customers at the moment, with 1,200-plus books across all genres. We have started a children’s section as well that we are building steadily," says D’Souza.

On World Book Day, in April 2018, journalist and publisher Frederick Noronha started a community library at his home in Saligão. “I have gained from a village library that expat Saligãokars (mainly those based in Mumbai) had donated to the Saligão Institute sometime in the 1970s. This is my way of giving back." The Sonarbhat library is based on the “Open Source/Free Software" principles which have deeply influenced Noronha. “This means we don’t charge fees, we don’t accept donations of cash (but welcome pre-owned books which can be recycled, especially children’s books)," he says.

The library wasn’t meant to be children-focused but that’s how it has turned out. “My home is next to a school, and the kids discovered the library. We get about 20-40 kids a day. It’s such a thrill watching young minds getting hooked on to reading, and growing with every book," he says.

The three booksellers/librarians have all had a positive experience with readers and reports of dwindling readership statistics don’t bother them. “It’s great that our used books section gets a lot of traffic. People also come to us looking for offbeat books and unusual titles that you can’t usually find online," says Noronha. “It’s amazing to see some children transform into avid readers and go through entire collections of books. A few have finished almost all I have for their age. I wish we could convince more people that recycled books can turn into precious pages, and find new readers," he says.

On your next trip to Goa, pack some pre-loved books along with your sunscreen, and send them to one of these book-lovers. What better way to give your books a new lease of life?

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