Thursday, January 17, 2008

Browsing for used books

I recently realized that one of the things I like about Bangalore is its high per capita ratio of used books stores. A good many of them seem to be located in and around Church Street. Today I visited one of the more organized and well known of the Church Street bookstores, Blossom. Blossom is one of my favorite haunts for two reasons. First, they have a good collection of graphic novels and History books. Second, Koshy's is almost next door. Nothing serves better to wrap up an evening spent searching for books than a hot pot of tea served at Koshy's in genuine silverware. But I digress.

Today I ventured unusually close to the software books section in the store. I found it interesting that compared to other sections this one contained mostly "toast of the season" kind of books. Books that people aspiring to quick-start (or quick-boost) their career in the Bangalore software industry would buy. I found a lot of "pour encourager les dummies" type of books and those that scratch the surface of complex topics like *Nix or relational databases. No Knuth, no Norvig to name just a few of the masters. Contrast this with the diverse, rich collection of books on sale in the say, History section.

What could be the reason? I think people who buy really fundamental books on computer science are a minority. Among these the fraction of readers who would *sell* their copies would be really small. Such books would anyway be snapped up as soon as they became available. This is also in part due to the contrasting nature of computer science and history. Very few readers would need history books for daily reference, thereby making selling books after reading more likely.

There were very few used graphic novels on sale as well. I suspect that the small number of people who actually pay to buy them would not part with them easily. I know I wouldn't sell my copy of Watchmen or Neverwhere.

Incidentally I came across a book in the History section that had the marking of a *Free Public Library* somewhere in the United States. Right on the first page was a notice from the library requesting members to take proper care of the book. Given that most people who travel overseas from Bangalore work for the IT industry there is a good chance that the book was liberated from the library by an IT "professional". Right here is another reason why Indian IT workers are labeled "cheap Indian techies". Literally and figuratively.


spock said...

Many times the libraries donate their used books when they run out of space or close down. In fact i had come across a lot of books from US/UK libraries in late 80's. So for all you know the book was donated/sold to someone/some org.

So Maybe what you said was right, maybe not. But please don't jump into conclusions and label all IT workers 'cheap' unless absolutely sure.

Manoj Govindan said...


FWIW, I used to frequent local libraries' book sales, particularly the British Library. Books sold on such occasions were clearly marked and the notices marking the books as belonging to the library were removed.

So like you said, maybe this particularly Library got closed down and all its books were carted away as-is. Perhaps the book was donated with the notice. Or maybe not.