Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Who reads book nowadays ?


No really, who reads books today ? Text books prescribed in schools and colleges…well, they still have their takers. But I am talking of all those novels and long form literature. Buying those hardcover books is sheer waste of money. As I recently found out. You see, I had a bunch of these old novels lying around the house. And in order to make space, I decided to get rid of them. Now in the past, I used to drive straight to  the second hand book store, where the book-loving-sales/agent would give me at least 40% of the cover value of the books in return. Higher if it is an non-Indian author, and even higher for hard cover books instead of paperbacks. Enough money to go buy another brand new book.

So imagine my surprise when this time the seller blankly refused to take the book. No one reads them, he tells me. Nowadays everyone buys soft copy. By that he meant the PDF/EPUB versions of books sold online. He then further proceeds to make me an offer. I can exchange my 3 year old Tom Clancy novel for another book by the same author, and pay him 50 rupees for his inconvenience. So, he wants my money AND the book.

No thanks, I respectfully declined. And then gave the book, and a few more I had to the kabbadiwala. Those road side dealers of paper and scrap. I got the worth of the book in the weight of its paper. About 15 rupees. I had bought some of them for 750/- plus.

This was today. But then something else had happened around two weeks prior. We got a free promotional copy of the Hindu at our doorstep, with the advertisement: one year subscription rates halved !. What used to cost 1800/- a year will now just cost 900/- for one years subscription to the paper. They were actually giving them away for its paper’s weight. Now I have never taken a newspaper subscription during the 10 years I have lived on my own. But I could see that more and more people were turning of these physical news feeds.

Back home, I used to have my own little collection of english novels I loved to read, even when I knew the whole story in my head. But they too went into the garbage when the paper in them started to disintegrate.

So this lead me to ponder, who are the ones still reading physical books and subscribing to newspapers today ? Maybe they are still popular in small towns and deep within villages. But within the cities, it no longer makes sense to spend money on them, when you can get the news for free. And the books for slightly more than free.  In a way, mass media and book publishers are also being disrupted, they will have to find a new way to price their products within the spare budget of today’s smartpone wiedling techies, if they want to stay in business. No one seems to be doing anything about it. Digital is the way forward.

But I still miss the joy and smell of a good book during a rainy day.


PS: My favourite authors are Agatha Christie, Michael Crichton, and P G Wodehouse. I have read every work they have created.