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mumbai India
It's air conditioned, Not so great otherwise
Apr 20, 2007 05:05 PM 4634 Views

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Crossword Book Shop -

Well I was a bit surpised to see the earlier reviewers saying good things about them, but not too much because I know there is a section of people who would think it is indeed great. But as far as my experience goes, I have rarely had opportunity to say much good about this famous chain of book shops. Both are right from their individual view  points.

It isn't that there is nothing good at all. For one, it's air conditioned, which is really nice thing( I am not being sarcastic) because it gives you a nice pleasent atmosphere to look for books. The shop layout is fairly good in big stores(but can be better), the smaller stores - which they call Crossword corner are quite clumsy though. And they have those wooden blocks kept between the rows of shelves on which you can sit and read or browse thorugh the books comfortably. Now one word of caution here too for those who may not be aware - There are 2 types of crossword shops. The first type are the big shops with large floor area, and a good layout of fairly well organised books. This is the better variety, but they are relatively few in number. The  other type is the so called Crossword Corner which is usually situated in an obscure corner of some other establishment like Shopper's Stop. This is a small and ill organised variety, and not much bigger collection of books here than what you would find on a railway platfiorm book stall. Needless to say, the black wooden blocks to sit and read are not available in this type. Basically, you need to know where you are going and mould your expectations accordingly.

The collection in big stores is quite Ok for all general needs. So if you are among the "general public" as far as the reading requirements go, and don't have any special or specific need, then this collecton is likely to satisfy you. Crosswod caters mainly for the requirements of this large majority more than sufficiently, but not for the more serious reader who sometimes wants to read something more or something different.

The above is about all, as far as the good side goes - if you thought that was any good.

Bad - well. For first, they are seriously expensive. If they were allowed to sell books for more than printed price, I guess they would try that too. But the fact is that the crossword price is always exactly the cover price(or it's Rupee conversion, at a rate most profitable to them). For those who are unaware, any descent, good book shop gives you at least some discount over the cover price, which is at least 10% as per common practice, and some like Strand give much more than that(the flip side being that in the mess that Strand is, you can't "discover" any book, you have to know upfront what you want to buy. Those who have been to Stands will know what I mean.) But as far as Crossword Book Shop goes, it's "sorry no discounts" policy. Indeed I might feel very stupid even to talk about it.

Second -  As I said above you'll only find the "usual" books in Crossword. If you are looking for anything out of ordinary, Crossword is not the place. They are even not keen to get such out of ordinary books for you, even though they claim I think that they'll get any book for you.

Third and the worst part is is their customer service. The young floor asistants often may not know what is located where in the store and they will rush to their seniors for advice on any qyery. These are the trainess I guess, doing part time jobs after/during college hours or those who want to get "work expeience" in the school holidays perhaps, who are not even familiar with the floor layout, and once one such confused boy had taken half an hour to tell me that they didn't have the item I was looking for(by which time I had already found out myself by searching throught the entire stores, that they didn't have it). But even if you go to the "Help desk" and ask to check if they have a particular book, she(yes it's her usually, but even the hims are not any different) is likely to take ages to give you an answer. The last time I went there, they still didn't have a proper computerised system( and I doubt it may be any different even today). They were still using Excell spreadsheet to maintain list of books across all their locations. So not suprising that there may sometimes be debates over whether they have a perticular book or not, in which store, and at which location.

BUT - as far as Mumbai goes, there are few options available for bookshops. And if you want to browse through a non-trivial selection of books, Crossword still remians the better(almost only) option.

My advice to you - If you are not too much in a hurry, and especially are conscious about the cost, then browse the books in Crossword, and buy them from Strand.

Of course if you have enough bucks that you don't care about extra 10, 15 or 30 percent, and also don't need anything much out of the ordinary, then surely Crossword is a wonderful place for you -  to browse as well as to buy. And to spend time in general. For the rest - browse in Crossword, and buy elsewhere.

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