This 2nd-hand bookseller revived his organization for the duration of the pandemic by advertising ‘rare books’ on-line

When I was 17 several years old, I started the journey that would adjust my existence: providing publications. At Kirti School in Mumbai, exactly where I was researching, there were being numerous booksellers, and they ended up always mobbed by learners shopping for textbooks to get ready for the IIT entrance examinations. Now, one particular guide was closely in desire, and pretty badly readily available. The pupils who needed it ended up determined sufficient to fork out a bigger value for it. So I acquired a copy for Rs 5 and sold it for Rs 11. This might look laughable currently, but allow me put it this way – back again in 1981, an endless plate of rice was offered at Rs 2.

I was a boy who beloved to examine but couldn’t manage to invest in so several textbooks. Marketing guides to purchase textbooks for myself appeared a novel way of funding my studying behavior. My daily charges were being only Rs 30 at the time, so if I bought even 1 ebook a day, it was plenty of. But then, as I grew more mature, I invested a number of many years participating in student movements.

By1988, I returned to Mumbai – Bombay back then – and took up a position at a laptop or computer repair service company as a salesman. But I tired of it within just 5 months. Probably holding down a job was not the way I was supposed to are living my lifestyle, so I reverted to my past strategies to gain revenue.

1st ways

I would collect guides from second-hand bookshops and offer them to my buddies and acquaintances. My initial shopper in Vashi, where I lived, was PS Nadkarni. His brother was the chief of the Countrywide Institute of Design, and he frequently purchased publications from me for his tiny son. That similar tiny boy is now a judge in America.

In the early days, I used to sell 5 textbooks for Rs 200 in modest bins. I begun buying Agatha Christie novels at 50 paise and promoting them to general public libraries for everywhere in between Rs 3 and Rs 8. With the far more complex libraries, PG Wodehouse was very well-known.

Frequent prospects ended up couple of and significantly in between. At the time, there was loads of levels of competition among second-hand booksellers in Mumbai. But gradually, by word of mouth, my status started to construct in the town. I met individuals like Manoj Kulkarni, for illustration, by means of people today I didn’t know. Shortly, massive bookstores began calling me to request if they could give my amount to clientele who required a individual e-book which was out of print or not in stock.

It didn’t just take me lengthy to realise that there was sizeable interest in next-hand publications and rare books. I had no person to instruct me the distinctions concerning the two in these early many years, so I taught myself. I experienced grown up reading through books. Now I consciously started to browse about guides, their printing and their publishing.

Pricing previous guides

Afterwards, the manager of the New and Secondhand Bookshop, who was a terrific collector of second-hand textbooks, launched me to the world of scarce books. He discussed that Indian textbooks, in particular individuals posted before independence, could fetch superior charges. He also guided me on how to selling price textbooks. He had an instinctive knack for knowledge the price of a book, and he handed his awareness on to his assistants – and, thankfully – to me.

Fact be explained to, there is a thin line concerning “second-hand” and “rare”, significantly of which is obvious in the wonderful print. For instance, the most straightforward way to recognize a scarce guide – primarily a coveted to start with edition – is its cover. Gathering unusual textbooks is not a common behavior in India. But internationally, there is a larger appreciation for unusual guides. It’s not an overstatement to say that for a lot of folks, exceptional publications are an financial commitment.

Between 2007 and 2010, quite a few aspect articles about me ended up printed in the Mumbai Mirror and Indian Express, which transformed my everyday living wholly. My cell phone has by no means stopped ringing since. I can count the who’s who of the literary globe, like Adil Jussawala, Shanta Gokhale, or the late Arun Kolatkar, along with celebs like Aamir Khan, Ashutosh Gowariker, or Sonali Kulkarni amongst my clients.

But I have stuck to pricing textbooks on the foundation of their benefit and not on a client’s position or standing. I employed to provide guides from my dwelling too, but I thought it best to rent a small business office space early this year – taking into consideration the customers who ended up calling me and the amount of publications I experienced saved. In actuality, in between my office and household, there is a overall of more than 10 thousand publications. Even the kitchen has two racks of guides. I even now give away hundreds of guides to scrap-sellers since, honestly, they attain additional viewers this way than we give credit history for.

A change in technique

However, the dilemma was: how to continue on advertising when I was shifting the stocks? My friends stepped in generously at this point. I remaining a rack of about 400 guides at a friend’s spot, with an eclectic mix of worldwide classics, as nicely as Urdu and Marathi textbooks. I available my close friend a handsome fee if he could promote them to his network of close friends and acquaintances. He did just that by taking images and sending them by using email or WhatsApp to his community. This procedure worked properly until finally I settled into my new place of work.

By now, it was by now February 2020 and there were being previously whispers of the coronavirus in the air. But I was focused on the reality that I ultimately had an place of work which I loved, with fantastic lighting and a charming tiny terrace. By March, however, I could not disregard Covid-19 any longer. The nation had absent into a lockdown common couriers had been closed for business enterprise bookselling and reserve-obtaining had come to a grinding halt. I had to shut my office environment temporarily.

It was a time of enormous improve for me. I have hardly ever penned down the price ranges of publications, nor promoted guides on social media. Now, I started out with a dictionary of Marathi dialect. Hundreds of songs have been prepared or recited by gals in Malwani, one particular of the dialects of Maharashtra. Thousands of tunes are published or performed all over the point out.

Marathi scholar Sarojini Babar undertook the industrious job of compiling these music in some 15 volumes, titled Lok Sahitya. Right after this project, she imagined of compiling a dictionary of one of a kind terms, which are not in colloquial use in key metropolises, like Pune or Mumbai. I posted a photograph of this dictionary on Facebook. The reaction was quick and remarkable.

Gratified, I made the decision to make use of social media throughout the early months of the lockdown to market publications on the internet. I was aided in this approach by evaluating price ranges on Abe Books (a important on the net market to purchase and promote unusual textbooks), and Amazon. A single working day, the painter Laxman Srestha termed me and stated he was studying VS Naipaul’s Outside of Perception, and was searching for its sequel Amid the Believers.

I was enthusiastic simply because this was a significant fee for me, and I had the ebook now. I checked on line and found that I possessed a duplicate of the very first version, which I was completely ready to market for Rs 5,000. But on hunting up its cost on Abe Textbooks and Amazon I was shocked to learn it was worthy of around Rs 46,000 rupees. Now, I never ever wait ahead of examining rates on-line.

Selling uncommon guides

I am constantly instructed that readership is dwindling these times. But what I have observed on the floor is different. Very last year, I set up an exhibition of publications at Ishan Mall found on the outskirts of Pune. My good friends in the town did not go to, but men and women living all-around the place did. In four days, we marketed 50 publications.

The encounter also gave us a sneak peek into visitors and their tastes. For occasion, a male functioning at a bank frequented the stall to acquire books on string theory and physics. A Kashmiri Muslim female, who worked at an NGO, was intrigued in studying the Bhagavad Gita. A team of students had come from Mumbai to see the books at the exhibition.

I built a database of all the audience who frequented by noting down their get in touch with information. Throughout the lockdown, we were capable to use this listing to achieve out to some of the consumers. I was delighted when a lot of of them quickly ordered books. On-line payment was also a huge shift for me. Before, I had to ship anyone to accumulate payment at the time of shipping, but apps like Google Shell out or PayTM ended up a boon through the lockdown.

In July, I re-opened my office environment following 4 months. A former assistant advised that we could give among 30 and 300 textbooks to each of people who preferred to re-open up their libraries. My proposal on Facebook been given a significant response: Vinayak Joshi from Pandharpur acquired guides value Rs 7,000, and Tejas Kulkarni acquired two sets of textbooks for Rs 10,000. This assisted commence the method of spending the prolonged-overdue lease of the store.

We also arrived up with the notion of giving our very uncommon textbooks as photocopies. We marketed a couple of guides this way way too. Some scarce books provide as important references, so I attempt not to sell them. I have a 150-12 months-aged Marathi dictionary made by Parashuram Godbole. Publications that have been gathering dust on the shelves for several years are now helping me pay out the hire.

The Covid-19 pandemic has pressured me to alter my model of functioning in a lot of optimistic techniques. The pandemic has built me realise I have to adapt to an inevitably changing environment. It also has, unusually, offered me hope that though the earth may perhaps modify numerous periods above, the like for publications and looking through will continue to be everlasting.

So, everyday living is limping back again to standard for me. Some principles have adjusted but I consider the enjoy of guides will remain unchanged, and we will proceed to be in enterprise until eventually we want and are keen to be alert to purchaser requires.

This series of content articles on the affect of the coronavirus pandemic on publishing is curated by Kanishka Gupta.