How does a 25 % discount on River of Smoke, Amitav Ghosh’s new novel, sound? How about Amy Chua’s treatise on Tiger parenting for Rs. 115 less than the original Rs. 450 or a 600 rupee discount on The Second World, Parag Khanna’s geopolitics bestseller, originally priced at Rs. 999?
If you judge a book by its cover price, rejoice. A number of stores in the city are dangling the discount carrot. Independent bookshop owners may argue that discounts hurt smaller players, but that hasn’t stopped large chains from slashing book prices.
The Half Price Book Store, for instance, which opened in May, offers an average 50% off on close to 1500 titles. Browsing on a Wednesday afternoon, a 75 % discount on John Irving’s Until I Find You catches one’s eye. On the music shelf , Lakshmi Viswanathan’s biography of MS Subbulakshmi for Rs. 650 also looks tempting.
You needn’t necessarily trek to the Daryaganj used books market or browse through flipcart.com to indulge in inexpensive reading. “It is wonderful to buy new books at half the price,” says graphic designer Angel Bede, 21. “Last fortnight, I picked up 100 Bollywood Films by Rachel Dwyer for Rs. 150.”
Kapil Kapoor of Roli Books, the brain behind the Half Price Book Store, says it is India’s first organised outlet for excess books inventory. “But unlike the United States, we don’t buy used books from our clients,” adds Kapoor.
Om Book Shop, too, is offering discounts up to 90% at their eight outlets across the city, to coincide with the school vacations. “Through the year, we give a flat 10 % off to our book club members,” says its marketing head Amit Vig.
Neelima Kapoor, 11, daughter of doctor parents, can buy books out of her pocket money allowance of R1000. “I bought a recipe book for my aunt shaped like a bar of chocolate. The best bit was the price: Rs. 500,” says the class VI student of Convent of Jesus and Mary.
Bookshop owner Shobha Sengupta of Quill and Canvas, Gurgaon, doesn’t believe in discounting. “Books in India are the cheapest in the world. Also, there is no VAT on them. Still, the bookseller is under pressure to give discounts.”
When a bookseller gives the reader a discount, says Anuj Bahri of Bahrisons, he is scrimping on some value somewhere. “Buying books on Amazon, for instance, is very impersonal. People have different expectations from a bookseller in India. There is a pleasure in knowing how to guide readers.”
Arpita Singh of Yodakin says people don’t come to her store expecting discounts. “We only keep independent publishers. Our books are available nowhere else. But we do extend a 10% discount to students.”
Mirza Afsar Baig of Midlands, say bibliophiles, manages to strike a balance between discounts and good old hands-on bookselling. “Coming from Scotland, I was happy to discover a store where the books are not blindly classified,” says Adam Budd, who teaches comparative literature at the University of Edinburgh. “A RK Narayan for instance, is displayed in the children’s section here,” adds Budd.
Om Arora of Variety Book Depot, one of the oldest book distributors in the country, says discounted stores can’t be sustained in the long run. “It is just a way to dispose of dead stock.” The readers sure aren’t complaining.