Monday, 27 December 2010

Pockets, Books And Thoughts.

Well fortunately or unfortunately I study in an institution located in college street , Kolkata. The street is also known as the "boi para"..... (can be lousily translated as the book neighbourhood). As a student living unapologetically on my father's money I can't afford to care about the rightful way of buying books (read original copies), I get fake ones at bargain prices and will continue to do so till i have a paycheck to boast about.

In fact i believe reading a pirated copy is a lot of hard work and it only shows how determined and despo one can get to read a book. Sample this a friend once gave me a copy of "Unaccustomed Earth" saying it was unreadable. It did not take me long to find out why. All (and its ALL) the pages were mixed up. You begin one story reach a poignant moment only to find that the next story begins from the following page and the remaining half of the story you were reading exists 20 pages later. Well i read every single story and even numbered the book correctly. (i am impatient with kids but very patient with books and tangled wind chimes) .

But this is not what i wanted to talk about. the point i was trying to make is that i seldom buy books from the "stores" (read Starmark, Oxford and Crossword) because i am short of cash. But i love browsing and at times succumb to temptation. The last few times i went there i bought some Bengali books. The prices were really low and i was very happy because I did not think i could have struck a better bargain even at college street. But yesterday i went to Oxford , Park Street and i bought a few Bengali books but something gnawed behind my head. I saw a copy of "Shesher Kobita" (not published by Bishwabharati but another publication) being sold for Rs.20 and even some other Bengali authors had books selling at really low prices as compared to the English authors. Now I am no financial expert who understands the dynamics of the economy behind books but it just bothers me that a Sidney Sheldon (I am not looking down upon it ...i have read his books) sells for more money than Tagore or any other well-known Bengali author. Even contemporary writers in English sell their books at exorbitant prices. Even the english classics sell for more.

There's a question of demand,  but if it is low then why is it so? I fail to understand the reason why english books should cost a bomb. It is definitely not "greater" literature by any (ANY) means. Is "Shesher Kobita" a "lesser" work than "The Museum of Innocence", by Pamuk , which sells for a price upwards of Rs.500.Is something wrong with us? The way we perceive the world? I have grown up reading Sukumar Ray but i have friends who can swear by Paulo Coelho (hate his books) but who are ignorant of Feluda and Pagla Dashu. I have also fortunately been blessed with friends who are from the opposite pole and enjoy reading vernacular books.

It is not only a Vernacular vs. English divide. Pride and Prejudice and other classics sell for less money than a Jackie Collins. It bothers me, I don't know why. I am in no way the arbitrator of what other people should read and like to read but I feel as a reader I have the right to ask what is the parameter which is considered while fixing the price of a book and is that parameter a just one? Just to the author and the reader.

For instance if no one has a right to determine the price according to quality then there should an element of uniformity, if not exact ,at least the disparity should not be so damn great. A person may want to watch Heyy Baby , while another may wish to see The Social Network, at a multiplex there is no major difference in the pricing of the two movies. I just do not understand the dynamics of the pricing and end up thinking if I am the only lost soul thinking about it, and does it appear normal to everyone else !


sunil said...

The reasons, I think lies in the royalties that bigger publication houses promise to pay to the authors. The distribution regions also decide the price . For example EEE edition (eastern economy edition ) , of a technical book costs one fourth of original TMH edition.
I agree that some books that are of hardly any value are exorbitantly priced . I often wonder who must be buying them for that price.

The works of Sharartchandra, Premchand and many Hindi and urdu poets are priceless ,for me I have always believed in value and most of my collection has come from road side shops of Delhi and Amritsar .Ironically, if I enjoy reading a book I make a note of it and buy it at a good bargain wherever I see that. After all some books are to be reread and some digested.

chatterbox unplugged said...

Hi Sunil..... ya royalty could be a reason ... and you wonder who buys those books? well plenty! that just adds to the absurdity...but then not ev1 has the luxury of a good cheaper alternative...thankfully i do !!