No one should ever question the need for book shopping trips. Everytime you wander into Crossword or Om Book Shop and come out with a latest selection of national bestsellers and Pulitzer Prize winners, it’s always worth it.
You deserve to splurge on your de-stress and pastime enthusiasms. No bibliophile would be guilty about weekend outings to Cha Bar, even if they are literally every weekend. But what saves the Delhi folks from prolonged excursions to walled and closed bookstores to feed their reading lust is roadside bookshops.
Present along the railings of markets and parks, or outside urbane bars and restaurants, beside art galleries, around eating joints, near clothing stores and even adjacent to grocery markets, these stores provide convenient access to comics, novels, fiction and non-fiction volumes to satiate one’s book lust.
Your average sasta acquisition of latest release may be sponsored by these stores’ stock of duplicate and pirated copies. One’s request for a classic volume may be met with a second-hand book whose yellow pages have aged like fine wine. But not all these stores hold piles of disposed books and unoriginal duplicates.
Although, that might be the impression Delhiites seems to have. “I do not often buy books from roadside because of the quality, but I’ve made an exception this time. I have purchased this copy of Alchemist. I am very particular about the quality of the book which is why I asked him to open the packaging and show me the pages and print before making the purchase,” says Megha Jain, a resident from Preet Vihar, while strolling the circles of Connaught Place.
Many of the roadside bookshops keep original copies in sparkling clear wrapping. Pradeep Kumar, who’s been setting shop in Connaught Place since 25 years, tells Metrolife, “I get books from the same company that the shops here get. We go to the publishers like Penguin and Rupa. All books are original. But unlike the shops we give 10 to 20 per cent discount. The stores have higher expenditure.
They endure the cost of light, AC and the showroom itself. We don’t have such expenditure, so we can offer this discount.” Kumar comes from Laxmi Nagar every morning and sets a stall with about 800 books. His collection is highly updated.
With several anticipated books launching regularly, two to four titles are added almost every day. Having been in charge of the store for 30 years, he has seen the surroundings adapt and alter. “Net se bahut faraq pada hai,” he says.
“People used to go to stores and buy books, now everyone orders books online. Internet has changed a lot. The business has been affected as well. Another person used to set up his shop next to me, and he has left now. Three shops in Connaught Place have also closed down. It is because people can make much more money in just renting their shops than they can in keeping a bookstore there.”
Pradeep Kumar spots someone and dashes after him. Coming back, he says that it was a Delhi University professor who always comes to his stall. “A lot of big people come to my store. That professor was one of them.”
The internet’s invasion to these stores’ livelihood is a common perception. Murtaza Ansari, whose shop is located in Mayur Vihar, says “Since online shopping has become possible, people don’t come here as much as they used too. Pehle toh kaam achcha chalta tha.”
The demand and love for these stores is not extinct. “Though I love bookshops but I don’t have time to visit one every now and then. Roadside book vendors are like mobile bookshops, it saves time. Also, more often than not, you get relatively unknown but great books, something that would get lost in bookshops with so much around,” says Aisha Zafar on her visit to the city.
So next time you are on a look for a quick read or something you can laze up to, do not surf the net. Visit your nearest roadside store for a complementary whiff of aroma that arises from old books while you browse the piles of volumes.