Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Strand Book Stall 2011 Monsoon Sale, Bangalore

The Strand Book Stall has its 2011 monsoon sale at The Institution of Engineers premises in Bangalore. The sale started this weekend, on the 8th of July, and ends next Sunday, on the 17th of July.

As usual, this sale has thousands of books on display, lined up neatly on tables in long aisles, spread over several categories.

This past Sunday, the busiest section at the sale was the children's section, where eager kids were either busy diving into the most colorful and glossiest of books or haranguing their parents into putting more and more books in the baskets they were trudging along.

As compared to earlier years, I did not see as many people at the sale. Sure there were a fair number of people, but the throngs were absent this time. One reason could be that Strand's annual year-end sale is generally more frequented than their mid-year monsoon sale. Their annual sale is usually held at Basava Bhavan, which is strategically sandwiched between three roads and offers ample visibility to the casual passer by. This venue, at the Institution of Engineers, is not that easy to spot.

I also suspect that the online discount seller, (@Flipkart) is having some effect on Strand's and other booksellers' sales. For long the Strand Book Stall offered unbeatable bargains on most of their books, with discounts starting at 20%. But now the situation has changed somewhat. While most brick-and-mortar retailers are still unwilling to offer any discounts on the books they sell, save for an odd 10% here and there, Flipkart has taken an Amazon-like axe to book prices, slashing them by 30%, 40%, or more. Take the example of "Jaya: An Illustrated Retelling Of The Mahabharata", a hugely popular retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik, which was selling at the Strand sale for Rs 375. The same is available from Flipkart for Rs 299, at a discount of 40% off its list price of Rs 499. You also get free shipping. Difficult to beat.

There is however still no match for the feeling of connectedness that shopping for physical books provides - it's a pity, although unavoidable, that books are moving more and more into the digital realm. Experience them while you can. Ten years hence I suspect the vast majority of books will be sold and read online, in digital form.

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© 2011, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.