Home > Uncategorized > The desi version of www.amazon.com

The desi version of www.amazon.com

September 28, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

We ain’t talking of a fresh-on-the-block online bookstore launched by some IIM grad… And neither is it an existing Indian book store going online to brace up to the digital revolution.

Then what??

It is our very own roadside bookseller who puts up a stall every weekend morning to only pack his bags n leave in the evening… only to come back again the next weekend. The cycle continues!! Every Indian must have, in his lifetime, atleast once been a customer at this traditional book market.

I remember my first tryst with these booksellers was in Hyderabad on the Abids road where a whole pavement stretch of 2kms was occupied with makeshift bookstores selling everything from Tinkle to The Space Odyssey!! However, with my parents having a foresight of these books passing through three kids – spanning an age range of 3 years – they always went for new books to ensure they last. And neither did I take an initiative to go and check out what’s on display there. So, my almost around 20 years of existence in Hyderabad only saw me admiring the booksellers’ business sense and a thought on what type of books get to these sellers…

Fast forward into 2004 when I moved to the big city of dreams – Mumbai – for my internship. Having come to a new place and a city of this reputation, me and my classmates doing their internships in Mumbai ended up scouting the bylanes around VT during the weekends… I still clearly remembering crossing Standard Chartered Bank… and then Westside almost every Sunday. And since all these journeys used to be on done on Bus No. 11 (in our school gossip, this translated into walking), we got into whiffing distance of these booksellers eventually one Sunday evening. Unable to resist my curiosity, I went around looking for some familiar authors. Having read Goal in the library, I always wanted to have a personal copy… And so locating it, I asked the guy for the price… he said, it is for INR 100. I knew that the original version of this book in the uptown stores was priced at around INR 400. More so, this book seemed unused although the finish was not so professional. Didn’t know how to react… whether to be happy that I got a great deal or confused that I didn’t know the catch in this pricing.

Mistaking the confusion writ so largely on my face to be indecision, the guy quickly lowered his price to say, “acha aap iska sattar rupaya de do” (Ok, give INR 70 for this”)! I quickly recalled my bargaining skills effectively taught by my mom… to ask him for a further reduction. To my quote of INR 40, he went back into the book dump and came up with a used copy of the book and quote INR 45 for that. Oh my God, can you ever imagine Amazon digging through its archives to give you the deal you want… you give the book name and your favorable price range… and the engine draws up the right match. hahahaha.

As if this wasn’t amazing enough… I decided to put this book on hold and asked for another book… And lo’ the guy again jumped into the heap and came up with the book. To me, the heap of books lying there seemed like a haystack with searching for a book equivalent to looking for a needle. Now, buying any book was nowhere in question with me quickly getting to shoot my queries @ the guy…

Our conversation went something like this:
MOID: “Bhaiya, aap kaise dhoondte ho kitab ko is mess mein?”
RAVI (the bookseller): “Nahin saab, woh aadat ho gayi hai… main yahan par gyara saal se hoon”
And this guy hadn’t even crossed his teens.
MOID: “Aap ke paas koi order hota hai… in books ko arrange karne ka?”
RAVI: “Nahin aisa nahin hai. Hum generally category ke hisaab se arrange kartey hai. Aur bina kisi cheez ke, same order mein hi jamatey hai har haftey ko”

For my non-hindi speaking readers, the translations goes like…
MOID: “Brother, how do you search for books in such a mess?”
RAVI (the bookseller): “No Sir, it has become a habit. I am here since the last 11 years/”
And this guy hadn’t even crossed his teens.
MOID: “Do you have some order in which you arrange these books?”
RAVI: “No, nothing like that. We generally start with the category of books but eventually end up sub-consciously arranging the books in the same way every time.”

When you come to think of it, even Amazon cannot retrieve books from its online directory as fast as these guys flip the books from the heap. And then when you get speedy delivery at one-tenth of the price of the original book on Amazon, time for Amazon to rethink their strategy????

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  1. Nisha
    October 6, 2008 at 12:30 am

    Very true and clear description. I remember having the same thoughts whenever I used to pass by the Sunday Market (name specifically given for the booksellers who stalled on Daryagang Road, Delhi every Sunday). Only it was a nightmare to walk through the infinite number of people buying books. One could find coursebooks,cookbooks, books for kids, bestseller novels at such a price that you would be shocked (let alone surprised)!

  2. October 6, 2008 at 8:22 am

    @ Nisha

    Absolutely… in Delhi, I used to frequent this Sunday Market @ PVR Saket. I think quite a sizeable proportion of my book collection owes its origin to that place 😀 LOL

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