During my trip to India, I took a delightful detour to a medium-sized bookstore in one of the cities I visited.
The store had probably just received a considerably large shipment; the entire space was in delightful disarray, adding to the store’s charm and quaintness.
The shop assistants were busy tearing open crates and boxes of books, layering the air with the delicious scent of ink and new paper. It heightened my sense of adventure to be navigating through and carefully stepping over the teetering mini-towers of tomes both in English and Telugu. (Telugu is one among the 17 official languages of India.)
Since the shop was not too intuitively organized, I had to butter up a harried assistant or two to look up the books I had in mind, but then the results more than made up for it: I had to try really hard not to hyperventilate when they conjured up some of the more unusual/elusive titles that I hardly hoped to find in that store.
I have finished reading some of them; the others, I admit, I have been hoarding as a child would a stash of precious toffee for a rainy day.
Here are some of the English titles I bought:
- Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh.
- Bookless in Baghdad by Shashi Tharoor.
- Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru.
- Collection of Short Stories by Shashi Deshpande.
- The Binding Vine also by Shashi Deshpande.
- Comics: Series of Panchatantra and Jataka Tales, Stories about Tenali Raman, Birbal Tales and a few others.
I also bought a few novels for children, including some by Enid Blyton :-).
Can you guess how much I paid for all these beauties together? A little over Rs. 3,000/- (Rupee is the Indian currency), which amounts to less than $70/-!!
Recently, here in the U.S, I went to one of the larger bookstore chains looking for a style guide that promised to improve my grammar and whip up my writing into better shape. Just one book. It was priced at a whopping sixty-five dollars.
Why, oh why, are books so expensive in America?
Do you make it a point to stop by bookstores while traveling abroad?
Like me, do you come back home mildly depressed about the cost of books in the U.S (if that is where you make your home)?
Note: This post is not meant as a rant for/against the publishing industry in the U.S. (Nothing wrong with such a discussion, it’s just that I’m not in the mood for an involved debate just now.) Rather, it is an honest lament from a self-confessed bookworm :-).