Imagine a quirky truck trundling along the dusty roads of a nondescript town in India. What will be your curious guesses? Circus? Nautanki? Magic? Or even loud! Movie!! Hell no! This colourful caravan is loaded with books – books for all ages, aptitude and appetite! Be it comics or comedy, Wodehouse or Wordsworth, Sheldon or Shakespeare – you name it you get it! This delightful wonder of a travelling bookshop, called ‘Walking BookFairs’ (WBF), is probably the country's only book mobile.
Entrepreneurship with a difference
WBF also has an independent bookstore in Bhubaneswar, Odisha, which while being a store, also functions as a library, where one can browse books for hours together. The initiative which has already received resounding applause was started in January 2014 in Koraput district of Odisha by Akshaya Rautaray and Satabdi Mishra (both from Bhubaneswar, Odisha). Walking BookFairs was born with the idea of taking books to more people everywhere. “In India, there are no bookshops or libraries in small towns or villages. Even big towns and cities only have a couple of bookshops or libraries. We at WBF believe that books are for everyone and more people should have the opportunity to read books,” enumerates Shatabdi who was a full time mom before she joined her husband in the endeavour of making WBF a reality.
The world at your doorstep
WBF, an apposite and exclusive model for social entrepreneurship, has so far travelled 10,000 km in all 30 districts of Odisha with books ranging from various publishers and various genres in English, Odia and Hindi - classics, literary fiction, nonfiction, poetry, cinema, picture books, children's books etc. In 2015 the couple completed a pan India tour named 'Read More India' in which they covered 10,000 km over 20 states across India in 90 days with their unique book truck.
Akshaya, who primarily conceived the idea of WBF was previously working with a leading chain bookstore in Bhubaneswar when he met Shatabdi and the duo fell in love. Love of books and the zeal to spread that love amongst others keep this extraordinary couple constantly motivated. Akshaya strongly believes that stories open up a whole new world before us which nothing else can do and adds, “We have spaces for restaurants, malls, movie theaters, why not for more public libraries? In apartment buildings, there are pools, clubs, but not a community library. We are not giving our children a chance to love books, which can teach them so much more than the 10 course books their world is limited to. We are limiting their horizon to only marks, grades, and ultimately finding a well-paying job.”
The potential partnership
WBF has now partnered with the leading publishing house of the world - Penguin Random House with 'Penguin on Wheels' to spread the joy of reading around with our travelling bookshop. The Penguin on Wheels book mobile will be displaying books in public spaces, schools, educational institutions etc. “With WBF we wanted to promote good books, reading and take books to more people everywhere. We are happy that we have been able to do that, despite all odds. Thousands of people throughout India have looked at books, held books in their hands and read books at Walking BookFairs. We hope to be able to continue to spread the love of books around,” concludes Shatabdi with utmost Optimism.