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Kolkata is a place for intellectuals, and the College Street book market is burning proof of that. Just in case you visit the place on a winter morning, sip a cup of tea and talk to the locals. You will know how passionate they are about books.
Undoubtedly, College Street is a go-to place for anyone in need of academic books or leisure reads. But is the place still relevant when people are heavily leaning towards eBooks and online purchases?
Let’s find out!
What is College Street famous for?
When you, as a food lover, picture Kolkata, your mind instantly goes towards ‘Rosogolla’ and ‘Mishti Doi’. And if you are a bookworm, you may highly regard the City of Joy as a literary haven, do you not?
After all, Kolkata is the birthplace of Rabindranath Tagore himself. There are instances of exquisite culture scattered everywhere in the city for you to find.
To be precise, the College Street book market is one of the most iconic landmarks in the city. It is India’s largest to date and the second largest in Asia in terms of books.
College Street, Kolkata, is a neighbourhood of books. Since I grew up, I’ve always heard good things about it. There is a popular saying in West Bengal that there are no books you can’t find on College Street.
When it comes to books, the shopkeepers here sell millions of books every year. You don’t even need to browse books; you just need to tell them what you’re looking for. Then they will find the exact book for you. In case your book is out of stock, they’ll also recommend some similar books.
What makes the College Street book market special?
Not one, but multiple factors are at work when it comes to the College Street book market. Let’s see what the factors are:
One of the most important aspects of College Street is its location. This place is located right in the heart of Kolkata, in the middle of the city.
Also, it is surrounded by several important landmarks in Kolkata. This is why millions of people daily access the place to reach their respective destinations, if not for books. Naturally, it gets a lot of exposure, unlike any other place in the city.
This is one of the reasons behind the timeless appeal of College Street. People will definitely buy from a place they know about. If this were located somewhere in a remote neighbourhood in Kolkata, most people wouldn’t know about it, let alone buy a book!
Another important feature is that the place is well connected to the major parts of Kolkata. Regardless of where you’re coming from, you’ll face zero problems getting here. Take a train from your nearest railway station or hop on a bus; it will take you to College Street no matter what.
Above all, College Street, or the entire area in general, has a different vibe. Every single time I went there, I felt like stepping into the bygone colonial era. You will also feel the same when you look at those old-structured buildings, constructed way back in the British era. You’ll get a glimpse of Kolkata’s glorious past just by visiting College Street.
Here, you can find any books you want, and you will also get any food you want. The pavements of College Street are full of food stalls. In case you haven’t found the time to finish breakfast at home, you can finish it here. After all, books alone cannot satisfy your hunger, right?
The fact that College Street includes multiple important literary hubs has also contributed a lot to its popularity. Here, you will find the University of Calcutta, Calcutta Medical College, Presidency University, Sanskrit College, and more. In a way, this place is surrounded by colleges, doing justice to its name!
The whole ambience of College Street is full of books and attentive readers. Those who visit here share the same passion for books as the locals. In case books aren’t exactly your calling right now, you might have to change your mind once you’re here.
How relevant is the College Street book market in today’s date?
Well, now it’s time to address the elephant in the room. Do people still go to Boi Para to buy a book, or has the place lost its charm with time?
Honestly speaking, some people will tell you that the literary soul of Kolkata has died long ago. Nobody goes to College Street to buy a book; they just order it online.
While the statement is not entirely wrong, those people aren’t telling you the truth entirely. Yes, people are buying books from e-commerce sites, and these sites are sometimes giving discounts to attract customers. But there’s no way people have forgotten about the literary heart of Kolkata.
Yes, there are issues around the College Street book market. The place may not be as significant as it once was.
Still, they cannot replace the charm of the College Street book market—not now, not ever.
Why? Let’s find out!
To get more clarity, I talked to Arimit Deb, a college graduate who visits College Street whenever he needs a book. He told me something about the place that helped me find a new perspective. So, I’m sharing it with you.
‘’I’ve visited College Street many times, and during my visit, I got to know things. I remember one instance where an MBBS student needed some damn expensive books worth around 20,000 INR. So, he was looking for some second-hand books that he could afford, and he got them’’.
He also said, ‘’And you know what? After you’re done with the books, you can sell them to the same seller and get back 50% of your investment. As a student, visiting College Street can save you money that might be your most precious commodity right now.’’
Then I asked him whether he still wanted to visit the place when multiple online sites were selling cheap books.
He said, ‘’If you visit College Street book market, you’ll find books even cheaper than online. In this digital era, when e-books are everywhere, you cannot be totally disciplined when using a screen to read books. You’ll either get distracted or you’ll get addicted. Due to this addiction, you can’t be disciplined’’.
I hope you’ve got my point!
The year is 2023, and the College Street book market continues to be the literary pride of Kolkata. When it comes to purchasing second-hand books at a cheap price, no other book market has yet to beat this one.
In short, College Street is famous for books; it always has been and always will be. The trend of buying books online will come and go. But the timeless charm of our evergreen ‘Boi Para’ will always remain the same.