There is one particular incident that must be recounted here to make my point. One day, since I alighted from the bus at a stop which wasn’t exactly mine, I had to saunter till my residence through a stretch of road that I wasn’t familiar with. The stretch was eerily dark and quiet. After walking for some distance, I saw a minuscule, thatched hut to my left, and a lady standing outside calling out.
It took me a few seconds to realize that she was inviting me to have her. I wasn’t sure if she would have taken a refusal well, so I paced up and stopped only after attaining a safe distance. I could see lamp posts getting larger and shops appearing in sight. There was a used-book store that was selling books at Rs. 100 and 200 per kg. I had heard of this concept before but hadn’t seen books getting sold this way. Initially glad to have found such a store, I was left disillusioned once I checked the books. Most of them were run-of-the-mill books that people should avoid reading if they care for developing good taste. The only bright spots were the books on technical subjects but considering their weight, the deal was not very sweet. I wasn’t exactly looking for technical books either.
I had to decline both the offers – that of the sex-worker and of the bookstore. From whatever I could see of them and comprehend, both appeared battered. Both were unkempt, abused, marked, and scarred. Both were ordinary.
So what goes into deciding the prices for sex trade in squalid belts of a city and old books stacked upon each other under a rugged tent-house? I ask this not because I have complete understanding of these trades. I just have a fair idea about the value of presentation. A procurer (pimp) adds glitters, polishes, and qualifies the services and the prices shoot up. Another procurer (publisher) does the same with a book. For some people, I might have crossed a few lines here but a procurer is not necessarily an evil person unless he is indeed an evil person regardless of whether he is a pimp or a publisher. Books that got published some 100 years ago are getting re-branded, re-edited, reprinted and resold at higher prices than the previous editions. Does the same happen with escorts? Till a point in their lives when age doesn’t start showing, it does. As they grow in the trade, the prices go up. However, flesh trade is not an exception. This is the norm in any industry. It’s an age when the quality of every product or service is measured against the benchmark of porn. #foodporn #bookgasm #foodgasm #wordporn – any acquaintances in those hashtags there?
At a subconscious level, think of a sex-worker you have had, met or seen while going through the following lines.
What happens to the books that can no longer afford a publisher? They are sold like potatoes and onions in a last ditch attempt at making some money. What happens to the books that we buy and are long done with? What happens to the books that at least outwardly have nothing more to offer to us? I was not sincere when I had suggested to my friend that I would be selling them all. However, if one must sell, I think a second hand book should be sold at a higher price than the new one. In fact, the older a book gets, the higher its price should be, at least till the time it becomes really old and unreadable. It’s not very difficult to understand the reasons.
An old book, by the time reaches your hands has already enriched a few other lives before you and it has already gained some experience in changing lives. That experience, you do not have in a first edition first print. A freshman might make mistakes, a first copy might not give you what you expect of it, but in the case of an old one – more often than not, you are in safe hands because you have reached the book either of your hunting accord or after recommendations from someone you trust, and if you find a few scribbled notes in the book – you are perhaps luckier than many, and undoubtedly luckier than the first edition snobs.
Getting a glimpse into another life or going through a live commentary while you read those rusty pages is a priceless experience. Priceless things usually get sold at ambitiously steep prices. Hence, used books deserve better prices, abused books and you will find plenty of them – deserve our respect for having taken the blows of an untrained pretentious reader. In either case, I would choose to either go the capitalist way and sell them at higher prices than they were purchased or invoke my socialist side and give them away for free. The second option, would have to meet with great resistance from my faithfully capitalist enchantress bookshelf. The first one sounds more viable. I hope the world is ready when I sincerely mean to sell them.
The essay Books – The Used and the Abused! concludes with this part. Read the first part of the article here.