Flying Off The Racks

EXEC delves deeper into the reading habits of business travellers and their title preferences

One of the nice things about flying so much is that you get all that long-haul time to get reacquainted with the frequently-shelved habit of reading. And whether it is that quintessential airport book that promises to move your cheese, a spot of fiction to thrill the daylights out of you, or mindless auto glossies to while away time in the most agreeable fashion, there is something for absolutely every kind of business traveller at the numerous airport bookstores.

Admittedly, without books to keep you company, flight delays would’ve been the death of the biz breed. It must come as no huge surprise then that delayed flights spell soaring business for airport bookstores. Sai Vignesh, Senior R&D Engineer, admits to doing pretty much all his reading while waiting for his many flights, which as would luck would have it, are almost always not on time. “I buy most of my books at airports these days, as there’s always time at hand. I generally head straight to the bestsellers counter and pick up the latest titles. The length of the book usually doesn’t matter to me, as I am constantly flying anyway and there’s no need to finish a book in one shot. My favourite genre is fiction, but I also like reading essays and autobiographies while travelling.” Tarunya Suresh, corporate communications executive, Cognizant Technologies, likes to pick titles that she would otherwise not touch with a barge pole, when she is travelling. “I am generally into books on philosophy and poetry. But, when I travel, the last thing I want to do is try and decipher Khalil Gibran, and bring a migraine upon myself. I usually pick chick-lit titles for a bit of light reading- ideally something like The Devil Wears Prada or Eat, Pray, Love. I also pick up graphic novels as they make for very enjoyable travel reading,” she said,

On the general trend of buying habits among the book loving business class populace, Chandrasekhar, manager, Crossword, BIAL Airport, said, “Fiction and management books are always in fashion among executives. There are two kinds of such customers – those who want entertaining reads to keep them distracted from work, and those who want to use every minute to soak up managerial principles. For the entertainment-seeking lot, books like Da Vinci Code and Stephen King books are the usual picks. Paulo Coelho’s works, especially The Alchemist, are wildly popular too. The more serious-minded pick up reads like Who Moved My Cheese, The Secret and The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Dale Carnegie books are chosen by the top management usually.”

It is also rather interesting to note book preferences are geography-centric. Take for example, Mumbai customers who prefer light reading featuring the likes of Chetan Bhagat titles, against travellers from Chennai who almost always opt for self-improvement books. R Desingh, sales and operations head, Higginbotham, Anna International Airport, revealed, “70 percent of all books sold at our outlet are self-improvement and business-oriented. Robin Sharma, Stephen Covey, Peter Trucker and Edward de Bono titles are the most popular. Among magazines, political and auto rags sell like hot cakes, and for those who want to be seen reading the ‘right thing’, autobiographies are the best bet. Currently, the autobiographies of Steve Jobs or Mamta Banerjee are going by the dozen.”

In Mumbai, young executives prefer light reads, according to Hemant Chavan, department head, Landmark, Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport. He said, “Chetan Bhagat and Ravinder Singh titles are the most picked-up here. Books by Srishti Publications, which has come out with a range of thin, inexpensive books aimed at the airport audience, sell fast too. Magazines sell faster at our airport outlets than in the others- with those based on current affairs, automobiles and the film industry flying off the racks. Self-help and business books, in contrast, aren’t favoured.”

Elaborating on the selection pattern, he continued, “Many of our customers know exactly what they want when they come in- thanks to the online and word-of-the-mouth reviews. As for regulars, they head straight for the bestsellers of the moment. Those on shorter flights, pick up a magazine or two.”

Of course, for the uber tech-savy lot, tablets are decidedly the way to go. All thanks to iPads and Kindles, the world of books, is literally wide open to those who take ‘browsing for books’ in the cyber sense.


Most-read books on flights:

– Da Vinci Code

– Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, John Gray

– The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

– The Secret, Rhonda Byrne

– Stephen King Books

– The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

– Paulo Coelho books

– Innovation Nation by John Kao

– Instant Wealth Wake Up Rich! By Christopher Hpward

– The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century by Thomas L Friedman

– The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

– How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie

– Rich Dad, Poor Dad: What the Rich Teach Their Kids About Money–That the Poor and Middle Class Do Not! by Robert T. Kiyosaki

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