Delhi is a goldmine for booklovers offering something to suit all budgets. To start with, there are the second-hand bookstores all over the city, sourcing their material from those who discard old books to even the humble kabariwallahs. Among the more famous of these is the shop behind Plaza Cinema in CP. And though it’s shopowner is legendary for being able to source just about any book one is looking for, what’s on display at the shop are John Grishams and Sidney Sheldons.
Equally famous are the fathers-sons quartet who own the Mid Land, Book Land, New Book Land shops in Janpath, Aurobindo Place, South Extension etc. Starting out with a small kiosk, the father established himself as a favourite with book buyers by being willing to share a larger portion of his commission than any other store. “Unless you own a bookshop yourself, it is impossible to find books cheaper in Delhi than here,” says Tara Gahlot, outside New Book Land in Janpath.
The second-hand booksellers at Nehru Place, Priya Cinema, Karol Bagh and Saket are also popular. But no discussion on second-hand books in Delhi is complete without a mention of the book bazaar at Daryaganj that starts at 7 am every Sunday. “There’s everything, from 200 Recipes for Blue Cheese to Living With Alzheimer’s and everything in between,” says Dominic D’Souza, a regular. “And it’s not just books in English, you will find Urdu, Arabic, and Hindi by the cartload,” he says. Plus, all those foreign language books discarded by tourists also find their way here.
A substantial portion of India’s flourishing pirated book trade has virtually become part of the street furniture in Delhi. The prices start ambitiously at Rs 250 and can go as low as Rs 90. If that’s too dear, try bargaining with the boys who sell the same books at intersections. They’ll go as low Rs 50 or Rs 40. And if that is also beyond your budget look out for the neighbourhood, ‘books without covers’ stall.
These are the books that have been reported as destroyed to the original publisher by unscrupulous bookstore owners. The publishers’ loss became the avid reader’s gain in the seventies when enterprising people in Delhi began sticking on a large piece of brown cello-tape on the book’s naked spine. These can be found in most colonies for Rs 10-50.