, the patriarch of all libraries and the ultimate summary of human knowledge, is all but dead.
The book, which for much of its 240-year-old history signaled stature, class and intellectual pretension on the part of the owner, now finds very few individual buyers. Prasanta Chatterjee, senior manager (sales), Standard Publicity, which has been distributing the book in India since 1908 says, “This year we have sold a set a month on an average after offering 35 per cent discount.” There are no buyers at the sticker price of Rs 55,000.
The figure was three times as many in 2004 when 35 sets were sold at the Kolkata Book Fair, helped by an on-the-spot loan from United Bank of India. But the bank suffered defaults on EMI payments and immediately discontinued the scheme.
But even with such poor figures, Kolkata still tops Indian metros in terms of individual buyers, reveals Chatterjee. The country consumes about 700 sets a year, mostly due to institutional buyers.
It is mainly due to the onslaught from technology upstarts like the Internet and DVD that the iconic book which used to boast of contributions from the likes of Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Leon Trotsky is facing extinction.
If the Internet is the primary accused, pigoen hole flats housing nuclear families is the co-conspirator.