Just came back from a personal trip to Beijing. The bookstores there are very impressive. Of course they have the small hole-in-the-wall, mom-and-pop bookstores. The super-bookstores, though, are multi-story affairs. They have at least three floors dedicated to books, one or two floors for CDs and DVDs, and floor space for stationery and other products. The bookstore in Sidan district has 1.5 floors for consumer electronics, with a focus on electronic dictionaries. Each of these floors is about the size of a one-floor Barnes & Nobles. And these stores are all packed! The three super-stores I visited are all filled with people browsing and purchasing books. Even on a weekday during school hours the stores are still busy. I just don't know if I can go back to Barnes and Nobles anymore after this trip.
One particularly impressive area is in the engineering textbooks. As an engineer, I just had to go check that out. If you go to a Barnes & Nobles here in the states, you will find about 8 to 16 shelves (1-2 short aisles) for engineering, programming, and "technology" books. In the Beijing super stores, the engineering section takes up at least a quarter of a floor. Mechanical engineering itself takes up at least 8 shelves. Food processing/manufacturing takes up several shelves, too. Even weapons/military/aero/astro engineering has about 3 to 4 shelves, more if you include the shipbuilding shelves. Civil engineering and architecture/construction occupies half of the whole engineering section, which is notable from an American perspective, where the undergrad civil engineering departments are usually the small departments in the engineering schools (approx 10-20 students/class year).
The military engineering books seem good. You get some fluff there, like a "modern weapon catalog" that is the size of a pocket book, but the rest are pretty solid. I saw "Principles of Submarine Design", "Principles of Fire Control System Design", "Design of Automatic Firearms", and "Introduction to Propellant Design", to name a few. I flipped through these books and they all seemed to cover the basics, with plenty of equations to start component designs and instructions on how to make the design tradeoffs. Good textbooks. It is sad that books like these are not more accessible to the American public, or even the American engineering students.
Because of the current Chinese emphasis on space flights and ballistic missiles, rocketry is pretty big in the military/aero&astro engineering book section. The books cover all segments of rocket/missile design. They even have an "Artillery Rocket Design" translated from the original Russian textbook.
All in all, it was very impressive visiting these bookstores. They are definitely on the to-see list for anybody visiting Beijing.
Does any of you know how the bookstores are like in India's major cities? How are their engineering books selling?
PS: edited for grammar