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STREET BEAT: The right to read


CARLOS ATWELL

STREET BEAT: The right to read

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READING IS said to be fast becoming a lost art.

In Barbados, the often quoted 98 per cent literacy rate has come under criticism in light of claims that a sizeable number of children are unable to read.

Street Beat visited a few bookstores in the City to get an idea of how popular they still were in the days of the Kindle, iPads, and other modern communication technology.

We heard that Barbadians were still frequenting the stores but mostly for pre-teen and research books.

Karen Austin, the managing director of Days Bookstore, called the development a shame.

“Young people do like the study guides but we very rarely see them buying fiction,” she said. “I don’t think we are a population of readers. it is more about education which is a shame because I think reading is powerful; it takes you to far-off places and helps improve imagination, but it seems reading stops at pre-teens,” she said.

Austin said tablet computers were also responsible for some of the fall-off in sales of novels so they were looking to get more into the available technology.

“One of the things I was looking to move towards was e-books. It would be nice to get there sooner rather than later,” she said.

Austin said business was quiet right now but expected things to pick up in July. Things tend to get “crazy” when parents came to the store to get their book lists filled for the new school year.

Cloister Bookstore on Hincks Street is reporting a fall-off in business, possibly due to a number of factors – the popularity of Kindles, the economic downturn or more popular branches, such as the one in Sheraton.

Stockroom clerk Augustin Charles said people still tended to come in for items such as postcards and stationery but their busiest time was from June to September when parents came to buy primary school texts, study guides and past papers.

This in itself is problematic for the bookstore to a degree, as Charles said the schools did not inform them of exactly how many books they needed,

“With primary schools, we need to know how many books to bring in but only some private schools do this as the public ones don’t seem to have the time. Then the parents come in and want to crucify us ,” he said.

Charles added that cloister did not provide books for tertiary level institutions at all as they had no idea what texts they used.

The team decided to try a slightly different tack for the final store and visited a Christian bookstore called Things Gospel. Owner/manager Adrian Agard said technology was more prevalent but for some, nothing beat a book, especially if it is the Good Book.

“I guess people use technology but at the end of the day people still read books. The Bible is still the leading book people buy from us and it comes in so many different versions now it is still in demand,” he said.

Agard said another big seller was children’s Bible stories but on the adult side, people liked to buy books written by famous Christian authors.

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