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Rare books at the Strand Book Festival

The Strand book sale that’s in its 64th year offers deals that can easily make booklovers go weak in the knees.

books Updated: Sep 23, 2009 19:24 IST
Jayeeta Mazumder

The Strand book sale that’s in its 64th year offers deals that can easily make booklovers go weak in the knees. With up to 80 per cent discounts on books on varied subjects— literature, science, fantasy, cookery, crafts, art and so on — the sale is undoubtedly one of the biggest in the city. Prices begin as cheap as Rs 15. And know what? All the copies come first-hand, of course, with that familiar smell of unopened books that produce a feeling of delight.

Vidya Virkar, proprietor and daughter of Strand Bookstall owner, late T N Shanbhag, says, “My father bought the Rs 15 books years ago. You wouldn’t find them anywhere else.”

Virkar takes pride in the range of rare books in literature, art and design, fashion, theatre and film. “We update the latest books and the bestsellers. But ultimately, we cater to the serious readers,” she says. You can’t deny that if you’ve taken a look at the spread of their Dover, Vintage and Everyman classics collection as well as the movie icons collection among many other hard-to-find books.

But how does the unusual discount rates work out? Virkar informs, “It’s just our 60-year philosophy of making books affordable. We have associations with a lot of publication houses since we’ve been around for such a long time. And we also have customers who swear by our books.”

Does that mean that they have a limited clientele? “No, we have a mixed set of readers from the yuppy kids to their grandpas.”

Virkar feels that although Dan Brown’s Lost Symbol is the fastest selling book (which is incredibly priced at Rs 465 at the sale), people still come to look for those rare books that they fail to find anywhere else. She reasons, “Mumbai is a linear city and therefore the demand. Also, we hold this fair in the suburbs, besides the annual sale in Churchgate, because we don’t want to be tagged exclusivist.” And that they are not, considering the Dan Brown fan as well as the Balzac reader gets an equal share of treatment. Caution: don’t look for textbooks here.