Tuesday, 5 June 2012


There're bookstores. Then there're other kinds of shops.

There's nothing like actually being there in a bookstore (preferably not too crowded, not too new, and definitely not one filled with apparels). I remember a time when I never used to buy books. I used to go to libraries and read them, and at the most, would buy second hand books. And of course read online ebooks, most of which were pirated. Once I got a job, I've never stopped buying new books. Said NO to pirated (e)books and pirated software*.

I used to visit one of these while in Trivandrum - British Library, Hornbill Library, Eloor Library. I especially loved finding the hidden gems, kept in the wrong shelves - an unexpected pleasant surprise.. I remember doing this deliberately in British Library (sadly, now closed). At times I would find a long sought after book, but would not have any open slots (you couldn't take more than 2 books). I'd then take the book and place it behind books of a different genre - Asimov books would go in, say, mathematics. Come back after a couple of days, return your books, and take these ones out.

Hornbill library was the best. The smallest, the one with waaay less number of books compared to the other two, but just a couple of kilometres from my house. A one room place in the basement of a line of shops, hardly 10'x10' in size. Books stacked on all three walls, and some even kept in cardboard boxes. Registration fee was a one time Rs.150, and for each book, you were charged 5% or 10% of the book price, depending on the condition of the books, and you could keep it for a week or two. Or a month or two. True, you might not have been able to find books that you specifically wanted, but there always was a book that interested you. I started with Secret Seven and Famous Five, then graduated to Hardy Boys and Sherlock Holmes, Michael Crichton, Mario Puzo, Arthur C Clarke. All Tintin & Asterix collections were available. I was never an Archie fan though. And oh yes, my first Harry Potter books were borrowed from here. I remember having to pre-book for Order of the Phoenix, and was fifth in line. I came to know about the series when the first movie was release in 2001. I remember the broomstick scene with Madam Hooch (Harry catching the Remembrall) being shown on a TV news channel, and immediately fell for the it. I'd have read each book over ten times by now.

Well, sadly things are changing. With Flipkart coming to the scene with an amazing collection and cheaper prices, I hardly buy books from shops. I still go the bookstores, browse around, and then come back and buy online. That said, Flipkart isn't the cheapest option anymore. IndiaPlaza, BookAdda, HomeShop18, Landmark, Oxford... Each one says they are the leading online bookstore :D. There's a website isbn.net.in that allows you to find the best prices as long as you know the ISBN of the book. You can use it to search the best prices and availability. There's also junglee.com from Amazon, but they leave out a few competitor sites like Flipkart from their results.

Then there're ebooks and ebook readers. No hassles of trying to preserve books, no storage space, light-weight, and all the advantages that come with them. But I still don't have an ebook reader. And quite possibly won't have one in the near future. There's nothing like having the book in your hand,  watching the yellowing of the paper over years with fond memories, enjoying the smell of the book... I probably read 25 books a year (that's a stretch, and there would be considerable re-reads). Even if I buy 20 books a year, it shouldn't be hard to maintain. Currently I'm using cardboard boxes plus silica gel packets to keep out moisture. Light, moisture and insects are the main reasons why paper becomes brittle and yellow in colour.

Now, a steaming cup of strong coffee, sitting by the window sill with a book in hand, a chilly wind and rain outside...

* Games != Software  :P


  1. Aah that last line.. A book lovers closest feeling to what paradise might be!

  2. Nice start, hope this one keeps the steam longer than your previous blog... last two words would be the most envious part for someone in Hyderabad or Chennai!