The heart of what fuels a business founded in books, Joan tells me, is a love of reading. She’s quick to add that many other pragmatic concerns must run alongside this bibliophilia, otherwise one might find oneself at the helm of a sinking ship. Thankfully, that sort of demise seems never to have been on the cards for Joan, who runs her establishment with generous helpings of acumen, of a keen investment in the literary pulse of the people, of a solid commitment to research in reading trends. She has kept in touch with what readerswant to read, with how readers appreciate the feel of a bookshop that’s not mired in profit margins, in a way that I daresay larger conglomerate booksellers tend to miss.
As I’d hoped it would, my talk with Joan really runs the gamut. We muse on the evolving trends in publishing, principal among them the rapid ascent of the e-book’s popularity, of the fact that Kindles, Nooks and Kobos have become as indispensable as mobile phones to so many. We discuss the difficulties inherent in sourcing book orders from foreign countries, and the exorbitant costs of shipping, issues which have been aired at the inaugural meeting of the Caribbean Literature Action Group (CALAG), which convened one day before the festival launch. With bold, necessary initiatives like CALAG and the Bocas Lit Fest on the rise, the future seems bright for the world of Caribbean arts and letters, doesn’t it? In the midst of this, Joan reminds me, it’s important to continue encouraging our vibrantly promising talent, a mission to which Paper Based has dedicated itself over the years.
A bookshop loved equally by both readers and writers, Paper Based held its 25th anniversary celebrations on March 3rd, to a deeply appreciative audience. Andre Bagoo, one of this year’s featured festival writers, had his work read by Barbara Jenkins and Jaime Bagoo. Other writers sharing their work included novelists Lawrence Scott (who read from his forthcoming poetry collection), prolific and celebrated author Earl Lovelace, winner of this year’s fiction category prize for Is Just A Movie, and poet-academic Jennifer Rahim. From every description I’ve heard of it, it sounds like it was a fantastic event, and I’m dreadfully sorry to have missed it. I’ve since resolved to make up for it by attending every single future Paper Based event that occurs while I’m present in Trinidad. Having been to a couple in the past, I can attest to the knowledge that they are a rare treat for those who enjoy author-reader interaction and stimulation.
Many thanks to Joan Dayal for her willingness to be interviewed, for her generosity in response and availability.
Paper Based Bookshop is located at The Normandie, 10 Nook Avenue, St. Anns, Trinidad. Its opening hours are Mon.-Fri.,10.00 – 18.00, and Sat.,10.00 – 16.00. To get in touch, you can call the shop, at +1 868.625.3197, email at email@example.com, and visit the well-updated Facebook page.
Photos by Keroy J. Chee Chow.