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HarperCollins book sale: Day two cancelled due to ‘overwhelming response’

books Updated: Jun 25, 2016 15:02 IST
Sneha Bengani

Bitten by its own success: Both the management and the book buyers were in for a rude shock when people thronged in large numbers, way too many than expected, for the HarperCollins’ book sale on Friday.(Facebook)

Leading book publisher HarperCollins has called off the second day of its garage sale in Faridabad citing the ‘overwhelming response’ that it got from the people of the National Capital Region on its opening day on Friday.

The two-day event planned to sell over 1 lakh copies at throwaway prices (from Rs 25 to Rs 100) on June 24 and 25. However, the publishing house’s coffers ran out of stock in the first hour itself, leaving the bibliophiles — most of whom had travelled considerable distances to reach the venue — angry and disappointed.

Readers readers everywhere, not a book to buy

The crowds gathered outside the gate of their warehouse in Faridabad on Friday could have given a cold shudder to even those who have experienced the crush of humanity at the Kumbh Mela or Ramlila Maidan gatherings.

On my way there on Day 1 at 10:30am (the sale was supposed to open at 10), I saw two guys carrying huge cartons full of books and sweating profusely. I asked them about their experience.

“It’s madness out there. They must have run out by now. Don’t bother,” they had forewarned me.

Those who somehow managed to get their hands on the books have made hefty purchases. (Sneha Bengani/HT photo)

If I were to believe them, HarperCollins had sold most of its 1 lakh books within 30 minutes of opening its sale. I clung to hope as I went ahead — only to see people with oversized bags and suitcases getting into auto-rickshaws. Looking at the crowd, I remember preparing myself for a long queue and some left-out crime thrillers.

But nothing could have braced me for the massive congregation of bibliophiles outside the gate on a sultry day. While I stood amid the crowd, I found out that some of them had been there since 8am and were still waiting. Several had taken the day off from work to be able to make the most of the sale. Some had come all the way from Andaman just for the experience of it.

“It is a Friday morning and it is over an hour away from Delhi. How can so many people turn up? This is insane,” someone had shouted from the crowd.

An elderly woman was pleasantly surprised to find that so many young people still read books and could make such an effort to buy them.

Read: Pick, hoard, read: Books for Rs. 25 at HarperCollins Faridabad sale

A few others, tired of waiting, had returned without even getting in. Those who had been able to go near the gate were shouting angry slogans, urging the organisers — who were letting people inside in batches — to allow everyone in.

Amid an endless wait, restless booklovers discussed several interesting possibilities of what they could do with the purchases (other than reading, of course). Some commented on the poor management and the need for a bigger space while others called their lucky friends who were inside, only to be discouraged from waiting any longer, but they still hung around.

‘Books flew off the shelves’

It was then that Arvind Gupta, the head of the warehouse, came out to express his regret — two hours after I was sandwiched by the crowd.

“We were expecting about 500 people. We weren’t prepared for 5,000. We are extremely sorry for your misery. All the best sellers are gone. There is no point in hanging around any longer,” Gupta told the crowd.

Though he said the gate would open only after 3pm, he wasn’t sure about it. The next time, it would an invite-only event, he said.

There wasn’t much to look forward to after that. Disappointed, I had left with several others without even entering the venue.

The ones who got ‘lucky’

But not everyone had a futile expedition. The select few who did manage to get in had come out with cartons full of books. I know a few people who have bought about 20 books each in less than Rs. 1,000.

Does it need to be mentioned that they are nothing short of elated and that their prized possessions would be all over their social media profiles for the next few days?

The writer tweets at @sneha_bengani