In the age of e-books and reading devices, second hand books are still doing a roaring business on the pavements of bustling Mumbai where open books markets sell works by an array of writers like Homer and Kalidasa.
Advent of social media or e-reading devices and apps have failed to dampen the zest of bibliophiles for printed books, including the second hand ones which they can buy at affordable prices.
Interactions with a host of booksellers in the sprawling metropolis, including one of the biggest “open book” sellers at the iconic Fountain, revealed that though digital era mounts tough challenges to their businesses, there is still a great demand for the books on display on the sidewalks.
“Of course, the advent of digital tools like android apps have kept a large chunk of book readers away from us. But we have not given up hope and devise new methods to attract readers or say book lovers,” said Rajendra Chandel, treasurer of Mumbai Novel Book Welfare Association, himself a seller at Hutatma Chowk’s open book market.
Explaining how they are coping with the challenges from “digital distractions”, he said, “Primarily, we sell second hand books which are cheaper by more than 50 per cent.”
“Apart from that, to maintain long-lasting relationship with buyers, we also give books on rent, which has been very helpful in making the customers, mainly students, return to us,” Chandel said.
This largest open book market of the city sells all kinds of titles ranging from fiction, biographies, fashion trends, history, war and wildlife, whose prices range from Rs. 10 to Rs. 5,000.
For instance, an internationally reputed home-learn set comprising 22 books is sold at a price of Rs. 5,000-6,000, far below the price of over Rs. 50,000 tagged by book stalls.
What often attracts readers to second-hand joints is that they have a wide variety on display, from pulp fiction to hi-tech thrillers and from science to management.
Though English titles continue to dominate, many of the sellers have in their stock books in Hindi and other Indian languages, including Sanskrit classics and devotional classics like “Ram Charit Manas”.