Bibliophiles in the city have reason to rejoice. Till now, the only alternative for those wishing to lay their hands on books without burning a hole in their pockets have been the handfill of decent libraries- the popular British Council library, the American Centre Library and the Delhi Public Library, and, of course, Daryaganj's Sunday-book bazaar But thanks to a first-of-its-kind venture by a young couple, book lovers in the Delhi and NCR region can now have access to a well-stocked library at the click of a button.
Friends Of Books (www.friendsofbooks.com), a book rental portal launched last week by the US-returned husband-wife duo of Arti Jain and Manish Kumar, allows subscribers to choose from a collection of over 3,500 books (and growing) and have them delivered and picked up from their doorstep. Best of all, there are no late fees.
"We struggled to find good books as there was no library system here, unlike in the US. That's what inspired us; we wanted to make availability of books easier for the Indian reader," says Kumar The couple moved back to the country in arch this year to give shape to this dream. They built up the current book stock from their own large collection, books donated by friends and wellwishers, those sourced from second-hand bookstores and directly from distributors.
Kumar adds, "The books will all be like brand new. There'll be no pirated books." Barely two days into the launch, Friends of Books already started making its first deliveries. "We've got an overwhelming response," says Arti. "People have called or mailed with compliments and really valuable suggestions." While Arti admits that it's "physically impossible" to stock every book under the sun, she adds that those that subscribers wish to read shall be added to the collection.
But one nagging question remains - aren't they fearful of books being spoiled or worse, poached? "There'll be a minority who'11 do that," says Jain. "But there'll be a security deposit. And once people realise that they are getting a good value-for-money service, we hope they'11 have the kind of respect for books and this enterprise as the Metro has achieved." The couple hopes to take this venture to other cities soon, after establishing a name for it in Delhi. "The big plan is to reach all over India.
We especially want to go to Tier-II cities like Chandigarh, Dehradun and Bhopal. There's a lot of untapped potential there," says Jain.
For the time being, it's 'happy reading' for Delhiites.
(Visitors to the ongoing Delhi Book Fair can visit the Friends of Books stall and register on the spot)