'Knowledge must come at a low price'

Booksellers, who do not have the privilege to sit in a shop located in some posh Delhi market, have quite a presence across the city. The vendors can be found in all the major markets selling cheap and even pirated copies of books. Classics, poetry, thriller, you name it and the vendor obliges his/her customer. Among many of these booksellers, there are some who have been in the business for more than a decade. Then there are the younger lot, dressed up in jeans and swanky T-shirts, whose bargaining skills make one shell out extra money. 

Metrolife traversed the city to find out more about these booksellers, their lives and their knowledge about the authors whose books they sell and of course with those who read them. 

Rakesh, whose parents originally hail from Madhya Pradesh, is a school dropout. He had to pursue this line of work due to family obligations. Now residing in a humble neighbourhood in south Delhi, Rakesh has one wish; he wants to read what he sells. 

“I am not able to read and there are often times when I think I could. People here come to ask for books and get surprised at the level of knowledge I possess about authors and their works. They sometimes even ask if I have read any of the books which I try to sell. I just smile and reply, ‘no’,” Rakesh told Metrolife. He is quite something when it comes to know the dynamics of his business. 

“The younger people like motivational books and self-help literature. I personally think it makes sense because they are growing, however, my preferred choice would be something different,” he said.  Rakesh now is taking tuitions to learn English. When asked which was the first book he intended to read he responded, ‘The Alchemist’.

Mohan Kumar, is a senior player in the business. While he claims that he has read quite a number of books in his lifetime, the prime focus for now is only his children’s education. “I don’t have the time to read. My whole energy goes into making money and saving it,” Kumar told Metrolife.
Kumar has quite an insight into the likes and dislikes of the Indian reader. “Most people want to read books which make them happy, be it a success story of a businessman, college romances, classics or patriotic books. There is less demand for books dealing with serious issues, atleast according to my experience,” he said.

Interestingly, all the vendors to whom Metrolife spoke to, unanimously agreed that the costs of the books should be cheap. Their reason was that if a customer wants to buy an expensive book, he would rather buy it from a shop instead of settling for one from a vendor. “Knowledge must come at a low price. The higher the costs, lesser the people who will seek it,” said Kumar sagely.  

So what do people like Kumar think of shopping online for books? “Yes people order online but there are still a lot of people who think of buying books as an experience,” said Shantanu, another vendor.  “All I can hope is that online shopping trend does not undermine the beautiful experience that buying books gives to people,” he added. 

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